Earthquake Diplomacy? Turkey violated Greece's airspace 24 times while Çavuşoğlu and Dendias hugged

greece Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu Nikos Dendias Turkey earthquake February 12

The Greek people's warm response to Turkey's appeal for aid to assist the victims of the earthquake, as well as the messages from Athens and the visit of Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to Antioch (Turkish: Hatay), opened a unique window of opportunity to deescalate tensions between the two countries.

Greece was given the opportunity to communicate with the Turkish public because of the earthquake tragedy. The Mediterranean country certainly took this opportunity and sent a message that the Greeks are not their enemy who is plotting the destruction of their country.

It was stressed that Greece is not the "evil" neighbour that the Turkish government and its controlled media would have Turkish citizens believe. Obviously the goals and priorities of Turkish foreign policy do not change overnight, and we should not expect dramatic changes at this level.

Even Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu's reference to the moving reception he gave his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias was about "solving problems."

Exactly what the Turkish leadership has been monotonously repeating in recent months, meaning its own way and its own method for solving the problems. The devastating earthquake, however, creates a new reality for Turkey itself.

With almost 1/5 of its territory destroyed, with a terrible loss of human life, with infrastructure and every productive activity leveled, which will have an unimaginable cost reconstruction, Erdoğan obviously has no choice but to prioritise the management of this extremely difficult situation.

This whole situation directly affects the political developments in Ankara, as Erdoğan will hardly march towards the elections in the midst of a humanitarian crisis in which no matter how hard the state apparatus tries to meet the needs.

He will have to redefine his attitude towards the West, where a significant part of the aid that Turkey needs will come from.

The difference in style that is expected to exist from the Turkish side, as was also seen from Çavuşoğlu's statements alongside Dendias, is useful and together with the emotion that Greek aid has caused in Turkish public opinion, create a good background for throwing of tones and the limitation of intensities.

There will be a "respite" during which the channels of communication can be restored and both parties can coolly revisit the redefinition of their relations. During this period, Erdoğan, if he decides to do so, will now have a successful way to let his dead-end aggressive policy towards Athens wane.

The visit of the American Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to Ankara and Athens next week is of particular interest, as it will be crucial for the new balance in American-Turkish relations and also for the messages that the Turkish leadership will send regarding Greek-Turkish relations.

Greece must keep its radar open for the eventual expression of such a will from the Turkish side.

But in order to avoid misleading approaches, the initiative and the choice to lead this mutual understanding due to the earthquakes to a process of de-escalation and restarting the process of discussing the Greek-Turkish problems, belongs exclusively to Ankara.

Athens has done and will continue to do its duty, but it cannot be the hasty one. Any goodwill gesture on the part of Turkey will be welcome, but Athens should not discount such moves before seeing them on the ground.

However, it is indicative that on Sunday, the day Dendias visited the areas affected by the earthquake, there were 24 violations of the Greek Airspace by Turkish fighter jets.

Yesterday, a new NAVTEX was issued for live fire exercises by Turkey in the middle of the Aegean Sea an area between Andros-Tinos-Ikaria, where the authority to publish NAVTEX belongs to Greece and not Turkey.

Niko Meletis is a columnist for Liberal.

READ MORE: A different message from Turkish media to Greece: "Thank you so much, friend."

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor