What does the Dendias crisis point to?
Diplomatic contacts are delicate affairs; very detailed studies are carried out before visits or meetings to avoid surprise developments. Of course, how the talks and contacts will develop and what the result will be cannot be entirely foreseen. However, before any meeting, the relevant bureaucratic teams prepare positive and negative scenarios, including contingency plans, and present them to the discretion of the political authorities.
What was the purpose of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ visit to Turkey? Why Dendias squabbled with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in front of the cameras, aggressively claiming that the European Union was not a “third party” in the Turkish-Greek disputes, but a “direct party” as Greece’s EU membership made the EU a direct party to the disputes? Should we again question “is it a diplomatic blunder again?” as was the case during a visit by Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya?
Of course, it is necessary to host a foreign guest with more kindness and consideration. However, the issue is different. Has an understanding been formed at the request of the Greek side on “not making statements in a manner that will cause difficulties for the other side,” even if it is obligatory to enter into “contentious issues?” Yes. The Greeks wanted it. Turkish diplomacy agreed. As a matter of fact, there were no problems until the Q&A at the end of the joint press conference of the two ministers. However, the Greek minister went outside the frame his diplomatic team agreed with the Turks, allegedly on the orders of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He walked over the understanding the Turks agreed on at the request of his own team not to “engage in sensitive issues” and “not to put the other side in a difficult position” and played to the gallery.
Why did Dendias act like this? A few reasons come to mind. Greece perhaps wanted to show that the bilateral dialogue it was compelled to enter with Turkey under the duress of Germany and convert the Turkish-Greek problems – whether the issues related to the eastern Mediterranean, problems of the Turkish minority in Greece or the Aegean matters – into issues between Turkey and the EU and try to solve such issues with Turkey, succumbing to pressures and sanction threats from Brussels and agree to resolution best serving Greek interests. Indeed, remarks from France that the sanctions issue was not yet closed and perhaps the issue would be revisited at the June meeting of EU leaders indicate that there is perhaps such a conspiracy by the axis of evil.
Another reason might be to avoid probable pressure at the April 27-29 unofficial 5+1 Cyrus conference where the Turkish side, for the first time in the past half-century, is preparing to officially offer to abandon the bizonal, bicommunal federal resolution target and replace it with a two-state resolution, be it a confederal one or full-fledged independent states, both members of the EU and with Turkey having full EU-member rights limited to Cyprus.
Nicos Anastasiades’ latest statements already show that the Greek side will do everything possible to make sure that Geneva talks will produce nothing but a stillborn outcome.
The Dendias crisis was a declaration of the inevitable: Geneva talks may produce a new deadlock and the EU-Turkey relations are still fragile.