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Our View: Greece chooses dialogue, Cyprus will have to do the same

File photo: Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Most people would have been greatly relieved to have heard that Greece and Turkey had agreed a moratorium on sea explorations for at least a month so they could engage in dialogue. The Oruc Reis survey ship returned to the port in Antalya while the spokesman of the Turkish presidency conveyed the Turkish government’s proposal for dialogue “without conditions” which Athens, reportedly, saw positively.

German chancellor Angel Merkel had been in contact with both governments and succeeded in securing a de-escalation of the tension and agreement to commence a dialogue about their differences. Turkey reportedly wants this to cover all issues on which there are long-standing disputes whereas Greece wants the dialogue to focus on the continental shelf. What is important however, was that the danger of hostilities in the Aegean has subsided.

The way some of the Cyprus media and some parties responded gave the impression they wanted the escalation to continue even if this led to military confrontation. Turkey was threatening all of Hellenism and proved this by issuing a Navtex for surveys by the Barbaros in the Cypriot EEZ, immediately after ordering the return of the Oruc Reis to the Antalya port. A united front was needed against Turkey, argued the Greek Cypriot critics of the Greek government’s opting for de-escalation.

They seem incapable of accepting that perhaps Greece’s government is not keen on the idea of sanctions against Turkey, which has become the battle-cry of President Anastasiades as if it is an end in itself. Perhaps Greece has decided that dialogue offers a better way of resolving its difference with Turkey than the imposing of sanctions, which many EU member-states are skeptical about and the German presidency opposes as it would destroy its plans for a Turkey-EU dialogue on a broad range of issues, including immigration.

This development will pose problems to the Anastasiades government’s investment in EU sanctions as policy objective and undermines its oft-repeated argument that ‘appeasement’ of Turkey does not work. The German presidency and the Greek government have shown they do not share this view. Worse still for Cyprus, must be the conclusion that no country considers Turkey’s violations of the Cypriot EEZ justify anything more than a verbal condemnation, probably because they are not a real threat to regional stability, as we have been claiming. There is no danger of a war breaking out when Turkey violates the Cypriot EEZ, which is why so little interest is shown.

Difficult as it may be to accept, the reality is that the EU, like the UN and most other states, rightly or wrongly, accept Turkey’s position that a Cyprus settlement would resolve the disputes over the Cypriot EEZ. Greece chose dialogue over sanctions, and there will be pressure on Cyprus to do the same, before long.

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