Marios Kanarinis | The pros and cons of the Dendias – Cavusoglu meeting
Defence Redefined
Published on 18/04/2021 at 18:30

Interestingly, a lot has been recorded from the joint press conference given by the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey, Nikos Dendias and Mevlut Cavusoglu, after their meeting (15.04.21). This meeting took place in the context of the resumption of exploratory contacts between the two countries.

Personally, I confess that the stance taken by the Greek Foreign Minister with his statements is an oasis in the desert of the appeasement policy that has been pursued for decades by the Greek side against Turkey’s expansionist aspirations and the threats it has been making over time. I judge it as such not because Greece will change its political stance, but because at least it has shown stature. In general, Nikos Dendias with his speech – rightly – scolded the aggression of the Turkish side, referring to all its fronts such as the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. He spoke of the need to de-escalate tensions in order to improve the relations between the two sides.

Also read: The Turkish press is furious with Nikos Dendias – “Such audacity” – VIDEO

He spoke, among other things, about the withdrawal of the Turkish casus belli in case Greece exercises its right to expand to 12 n.m. and in general about all the threats that Turkey makes. He rightly corrected the report of the Turkish Foreign Minister on the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, since the Treaty of Lausanne, signed by, among others, Turkey, makes the said minority religious. At the same time, he underlined the respect that Greece shows for religious freedom in its territory, referring to the mosque that was established in Athens. Regarding the immigration issue, Nikos Dendias made it clear that Greece does not accept lessons from Turkey, referring to the events of February – March 2020. 

In my personal opinion, the Greek Minister and the Greek government – said to be in agreement to respond accordingly to whatever challenge is posed to them during the meeting – get an almost ‘excellent grade’. Right political attitudes that satisfy the popular sentiment should be praised, but congratulations and celebrations should be limited in this case. The obvious does not raise applause. It is a self-evident attitude towards provocative Turkey that does not respect international law and its rules, while constantly threatening the territorial integrity of Greece. This is exactly the attitude that must be maintained. 

This text is not intended to applaud the Greek government and Nikos Dendias but, as its title also implies, aims to present the drawbacks that are identified. To begin with, I still have doubts about the initiation and purpose of these exploratory contacts as it has become clear that there is no common ground. Furthermore, regarding the immigration issue, the Greek Foreign Minister had to place more emphasis on this issue’s instrumentalization by Turkey. In the occupied Cypriot areas, colonization and Islamization are taking place, while through them a huge number of illegal immigrants are heading to the free areas. The hybrid war that Turkey is waging in Cyprus with the aim, among others, of demographic change is also evident. 

Apart from referring to the Bizonal Bicommunal Federation as the desired solution for the settlement of the Cyprus problem and the need to cease all actions that undermine the Republic of Cyprus, no other reference to Cyprus was made by Nikos Dendias. The bizonal bicommunal federation solution is clearly an agreed form of settlement and the official stance of Greece, Cyprus. But what must finally be realized is that its provisions, which are on the table, make this solution ineffective and unsustainable. I will expand on this at a later stage. It is also stressed that the Cyprus issue – and Cyprus in general – should not be in the background of the Greek-Turkish talks. This mainly concerns the Greek Government, which has sidelined Cyprus in its issues with its neighbors. Cyprus has a significant role and its loss will mean the mutilation of Greece. Within the above context, after reports were made about the respect of religious freedoms by Greece, the Greek minister had to emphasize the destruction of our cultural heritage in the occupied areas. And this is required to be done for diplomatic, moral and national reasons. 

Also read: Turkey The Erdogan administration’s internal affairs and the effort to retain power

The meeting of the two officials may have caused a stir in Turkey before the forthcoming five-party conference on the Cyprus issue in Geneva. The Turkish press shows dissatisfaction with Mevlüt Çavuşoglu who also acts like President Erdogan on the front with Greece. It even happens at a time when the Turkish president is looking for success in his country’s foreign policy in order to quell those protesting within it. In the Greek arc (Greece-Cyprus) on the other hand, the satisfaction of a large portion of the population after the statements of N. Dendias permeates. 

Finally, the point I want to make is that the discussions (exploratory and five-party) gained enormous interest after the meeting between the Greek and Turkish ministers. I will clarify again that this attitude must be maintained as it is a given that Turkish provocation will not cease to exist. A positive step so as to maintain this dynamic stance is the satisfaction of Prime Minister Mitsotakis – as reported – with the way the Greek Foreign Minister handles these issues. However, it would be more positive for the Prime Minister and the Greek government as a whole to express their public support for Nikos Dendias. The policy of appeasement has proven to be a failure. This is revealed by a phrase that I have borrowed and fits perfectly in this Greek-Turkish context: ‘you cannot tame a tiger with your head in its mouth’. 

The developments and the current situation render solidarity and good cooperation  between the governments of Greece and Cyprus in the interrelated issues they have before them vital. We are waiting for what is to follow. 

*Political scientist

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