Natural gas conflict: Athens and Ankara are talking again
Greece and Turkey have agreed to begin talks on 25 January - but with wildly different expectations. Athens only wants to discuss the "exclusive economic zone" and the gas reserves there; Ankara is determined to also tackle the maritime borders around the Greek islands near the Turkish coast. The media in both countries warn about their respective governments backing down.
A first step
Naftemporiki is cautiously optimistic that the talks could ease the situation:
“The invitation to restart exploratory talks is certainly a first step towards defusing tensions. ... But this is only the first step on a road that is long and hard. Because Turkey is determined to extend the agenda and believes it can achieve even more. ... The Greek side, on the other hand, is adamantly refusing to accept any extension of the agenda and has reiterated that the talks should be restricted to defining maritime zones. Whatever the case, the coming weeks will be extremely important. ... Whether the Turkish president is still wearing his European suit, or whether it is starting to get too tight for him, remains to be seen.”
The hidden dangers of dialogue
Athens has made a fatal mistake in consenting to the talks without a clear agenda having been defined, Dimokratia notes disapprovingly.
“The Turkish side is already trying to set the agenda, which goes way further that anything the Greeks, in official statements, have said they are willing to discuss. ... Numerous experts have expressed their concerns that this 'mysterious' agenda will result in many more high-intensity situations if the talks fail - as has been the case in the last 60 instances.”
Turkey will achieve nothing with this approach
The Turkish government is jeopardising national interests just to appease the EU, the US and Nato, Cumhuriyet protests:
“Now the AKP government is taking a step back and sitting down to talks with Greece! And in the process it is retracting its former demands, recalling the research vessel Oruç Reis from the Gulf of Antalya and accepting Athens' conditional and limited agenda. ... All just to overcome the hurdles of the inauguration of Joe Biden on 20 January, the Nato meeting on 17 February and the EU summit on 25 March. The AKP may buy some time by overcoming these hurdles, but by retreating and making compromises right from the start, it is putting Turkish interests on the line.”
Empathy is what's needed now
The year 2021 could potentially become the year of rapprochement between the EU and Ankara, the Turkey correspondent of Handelsblatt newspaper, Ozan Demircan, explains:
“It won't work without pressure. But the Americans and the Europeans should think long and hard about how far they can go with sanctions. They may hurt in the short term. But in the long term they will force Turkey to turn elsewhere. It would be better to link joint projects to a political rapprochement, for example a new customs union, which would benefit both sides. Dialogue is more important than ever now. ... What has been absent so far, and on both sides, is empathy. Rapprochement can only happen when both recognise their mutual dependencies. Ankara and Athens can prove that now. ”