As Greeks, we always choose the path of peace. The rule of law has been and will continue to be our compass. It is in this light that over time and across political parties we have always focused on diplomacy.
All serious Greek politicians, as well as opinion makers who influence views on Greek issues both at home and abroad, essentially support dialogue and the peaceful settlement of disputes with Turkey. Whether and when this dialogue should take place and what form it might take has to do with the behaviour and intentions of the Turkish leadership.
What is certain is that steps toward rapprochement cannot and will not be taken in an environment of aggressiveness or under threats. This self-evident principle is understood by everyone, including those third parties who encourage both sides to “figure things out”. Ankara should also realise it.
Unfortunately, we are constantly bombarded with threats from the other side of the Aegean which are made even more outrageous by the fact that they come from what is theoretically an ally. The most recent example is the spokesman of Turkey’s ruling party, Ömer Çelik, who a few days ago again threatened Greece, saying that “it is playing games that are beyond its size. We warn Greece. This game you are playing can be turned into a Greek tragedy”.
For its part, Greece states at every opportunity that it wants peaceful coexistence. It does not seek tension, let alone conflict. It is something that everyone understands, including Turkey.
Successive Greek governments, led by figures of various ideological orientations, have sought to improve Greek-Turkish relations.
Throughout this process, there is another important parameter that may not be recognised to the extent that it deserves. And this is none other than the Hellenic Armed Forces. Their readiness and ability are admirable. And we may not – and rightly so – shout about our military might, but it exists and it proves itself every day – at sea, in the air and on land. And anyone who chooses to ignore it will bear a significant cost.
In addition to the obvious diplomatic activity and the prime minister’s constant communication with most leaders whose countries play a role in the region – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi – and the foreign minister’s visits to Vienna (to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), Jerusalem, Cairo and Nicosia, there was also an immediate, widespread and highly effective mobilisation of the Armed Forces.
The experience, professionalism and morale of the crews of the country’s warships have a multiplying effect on the operational effectiveness of the Navy, which meets the challenge of the dangerous phase we are facing, to a large extent covering gaps that have been caused by the long and deep economic crisis.
Experts praise the Navy for its rapid, restrained and structured activation in this latest period of tension. It was one of these cases where the human factor made the difference.
With the Navy’s full strategic development and the correct tactical manoeuvres by Greek ships, Turkey’s Oruç Reis survey vessel was not allowed to carry out its work and collect information from the seabed in areas where Greece, based on the provisions of the law of the sea, claims the exclusive right of exploitation.
We avoided escalation, but we proved that we are there, capable of causing damage if the other side exceeds the limits and crosses the red lines. The Greek government focuses on diplomacy, respects the role, influence and decisions of international organizations and welcomes any well-intentioned mediation initiative.
At the same time, in the management of the dangerous situation with Turkey the deterrent power of the Hellenic Armed Forces is an extremely useful tool.
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)