Even with new Greek PM in office, hopes of better ties with Turkey remain bleak
As Turkey hopes for a new era of ties with Greece under new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, experts have gloomy predictions of progress on issues such as the Aegean Sea and the more immediate hydrocarbon drillings off Cyprus.
“I called Mitsotakis and congratulated him. My wish is to open this new chapter with Greece in peace and in solidarity. Our desire is not to experience any sort of difficulty in the Mediterranean or the Aegean in the upcoming period,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Monday.
“Resolving disputes with Greece is very difficult for Turkey. Whoever comes to power in Athens, one should not expect any change in Greece’s stance toward Turkey or unresolved problems between them,” said Hasim Turker, a senior researcher at the Ankara-based think tank Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies.
Turker predicted more frictions between the two countries in the coming period, especially over hydrocarbon drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Turkey has vital interests in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean and will never let its interest baffled by any other country. In this context, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of a hot conflict, although it is unlikely to happen,” said the former navy officer who led several missions off Cyprus.
Turkey and Greece have experienced serious tensions in the past over disputed zones in the shared Aegean Sea. They came to the brink of an armed conflict in 1996 because of sovereignty claims by both sides on islets in the Aegean.
Another source of immediate conflict is drilling for hydrocarbon reserves off Cyprus.
Turkey and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity recognized solely by Turkey, have long condemned the Greek government for conducting activities in the disputed waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, claiming that Greece violated the rights of Turkey and the underwater reserves belong to both communities.
Turkey and Cyprus have both claimed jurisdiction over areas around Cyprus, a region rich in natural gas.
Turkey has also sent two ships to the Eastern Mediterranean for hydrocarbon drilling, facing the ire of the European Union.
The Cyprus island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey intervened militarily following a coup by Athens-backed Greek Cypriots.