Nikos Dendias is packing his bags for Ankara

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

The visit of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to Ankara and his planned meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu was announced when the 62nd round of Greek-Turkish exploratory talks was held in Athens (March 16). The announcement of the Dendias-Cavusoglu meeting, with the Greek-side proviso that “right conditions prevail”, was made with the explicit intention to express a symbolism: that Greece does not fear dialogue, but also that dialogue is not giving in. Dendias is on record stating that “when you talk, you promote your positions and draw your red lines, but you don’t give in”.

Compared to last summer, when Tukey was actively staking its claim on energy resources of the East Mediterranean within sea areas that Greece understands as falling within its own EEZ, or more recently when it was projecting power much closer to Greek shores in areas of the North Aegean, one can say that the climate of Greek-Turkish reaction has indeed improved – be it only partially – so as to allow for such high-level talks. Still, as Dendias is packing for Turkey, he is surely aware that within Greece –  in fact within his own Government – forces are mounting that are opposing such an approach that would entail Greek maritime zones being adjudicated upon before the ICJ at the Hague, as the end-result of Greek-Turkish talks. Two former Greek Prime Ministers, Antonis Samaras and Kostas Karamanlis, are now on record considering that “handing over Greek sovereignty over islands and islets to the jurisdiction of the ICJ” is close to unthinkable. True enough, a third former Greek PM, Costas Simitis, is closer to the track followed by the current Government, reminding all concerned that “all Greek Governments (including the one of K. Karamanlis) discussed the width of our territorial waters as part of exploratory talks”; the real problem is that Simitis comes from quite different apart of the Greek political spectrum.

So, if there are no last-minute hiccups, when packing his bags for Ankara Nikos Dendias will need all the goodwill and support Greek public opinion can provide him with. The Dendias-Cavusoglu meeting is set for mid-day, April 14 .

As for the support that could be considered to flow from the recent visit to Ankara of the EU’s own leaders – a visit marred by the notorious “sofagate” diplomatic blunder/affront – one is well advised to remember that the official European assessment is that “major and beneficial geopolitical work was done in Ankara, from which [it is hoped that] Europe will reap the benefits”.

To follow.