The Platform

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (Facebook)

While Greco-Turkish relations have been tumultuous over the past decade, the initial momentum of reconciliation appears to be waning.

In the heart of Athens, under a sky that seemed to mirror the tentative warmth of diplomatic rapprochement, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended hands once antagonistic. This encounter marked a cessation of the protracted media skirmish between Greece and Turkey, channeling their acrimonious energies into a handshake that signified more than mere courtesy. It was the convergence of two NATO allies, under the watchful and hopeful gaze of the U.S. government, for whom peace in the Eastern Mediterranean is not just desirable but strategically imperative.

Erdogan, in a flourish of optimism, proclaimed the dawn of a “new era,” suggesting that their nations could set a global precedent. “There is no issue between us that is unsolvable,” Erdogan declared, “So long as we focus on the big picture and don’t end up like those who cross the sea and drown in the river.” Post-meeting, Erdogan’s sentiments leaned toward the poetic, envisioning the Aegean Sea as a “sea of peace” and urging both nations to adopt a perspective of hopeful pragmatism.

The ensuing peace plan, articulated through a ten-point declaration, was heralded as a blueprint for closer ties, a much-needed olive branch following a period marked by acute tensions where military engagement over the Aegean’s energy resources loomed ominously on the horizon.

Erdogan’s previous sojourn to Athens in 2017, broadcasted extensively across Greek channels, was fraught with the kind of raw, unscripted emotion that lays bare the complex tapestry of Greco-Turkish relations. Throughout the summit, both leaders did not shy away from voicing long-standing grievances, with topics spanning from ethnic minority rights to the pressing need for modernized treaties and a resolution to the enduring Cyprus conundrum.

The intricate web of contention between the two nations included Greek accusations of Turkey’s alleged “weaponization” of migration, juxtaposed against Turkish contentions over the potential disputability of certain Greek islands’ sovereignty, contingent on their militarization. The peace plan’s signing was, therefore, embraced as a harbinger of détente—albeit a fragile one.

The warmth that characterized recent Greco-Turkish interactions began to wane following the U.S. State Department’s approval of military jets to both nations—F-16s for Turkey and F-35s for Greece. This shift was mirrored in the Greek media, notably Kathimerini, a publication with close ties to the ruling New Democracy party, which amplified its scrutiny of Turkey and openly questioned the U.S. rationale for simultaneously arming both adversaries.

The editorial pattern emerging from Kathimerini is perhaps indicative of a broader sentiment within the Greek government—a subtle, yet clear, signal to their Turkish counterparts that the path to peace is not without its impediments.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis, in a candid moment captured by the press, tempered expectations: “Maintaining the good climate is essential, but anyone who believes that the rapprochement will progress without disruptions, I would say, is out of touch with reality and time,” Mitsotakis was quoted by Greek media a few weeks ago. “There is a need to build on the significant progress we have achieved.” He conceded that despite the recent détente, the journey ahead requires building upon the substantial yet tenuous progress achieved.

Echoing Mitsotakis, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke of inherited Aegean issues steeped in history, acknowledging that the current generation bears the responsibility of navigating these long-standing challenges.

As the two nations grapple with their shared history and the delicate balance of power, the prospect of Greece receiving advanced F-35 jets casts new shadows on the dialogue, with Turkey pledging a measured response to maintain the equilibrium.

While Greco-Turkish relations have been tumultuous over the past decade, the initial momentum of reconciliation appears to be waning. Greece’s resolve to maintain a half-full perspective, without yielding its demands, juxtaposed with its continued military fortifications, could potentially test the limits of Turkey’s tolerance in this geopolitical balancing act.

Jamal Mustafayev is a graduate of the State University of New York where he studied Communications, where he specialized in corporate and political communications, further attending Universidad Europea in Madrid for his MBA and obtaining an Executive Education degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His areas of interest include politics in the European, Middle Eastern, and the Caucasus region.