The recent violation of the Greek continental shelf by two Turkish research vessels, Cesme and Piri Reis, brought the Athens-Ankara relations back to the headlines. The Greek Foreign Ministry lodged a protest, while deputy FM Dimitris Droutsas briefed his EU counterparts about the event. The reaction from Athens shows that the government, correctly, makes any possible effort to avoid an unpleasant incident in Aegean, especially under the present economic situation of the country. On the other hand, Ankara tests Greece’s patience through unilateral provocation.

Being focused only in its financial problems, the Greek government tends to become alienated from what’s going on outside the country. Turkey would certainly try to benefit from that.

Within that framework, Turkey systematically doubts the Greek sovereign rights in eastern Aegean Sea and, furthermore, tries to establish a status-quo of co-exploitation and co-management of the region’s natural resources. The above aims should not surprise anybody. In order to become a powerful regional superpower – especially under the notorious Davutoglu doctrine – Ankara has to make clear to its neighbours that there is only one boss in eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, the message that the Turkish government sends to Athens is simple: ‘we will continually undermine the international legal status-quo in Aegean and, as long as you don’t react seriously, I will entrench my political dominance in the region.’ From its side, Greece has not any single reason to take part in provocations created by its neighbour. The counterbalance to Turkey’s diplomacy of the so-called “neo-Ottomanism” cannot be an ultra-patriotic rhetoric or bravado shouts. The whole issue is imp

ortant for the country’s geopolitical interests so for that a steady strategy is needed. While remaining a constant supporter of Ankara’s EU perspective, the government of George Papandreou has to review the abandoned Common defence doctrine between Greece and Cyprus. It was Andreas Papandreou and Cypriot president Glafcos Kliridis who, along with their Defence ministers Arsenis and Iliadis, established in 1993 a common diplomatic front between Athens and Nicosia. A defence policy which was covering a territory from Samothrace to Cyprus and a dynamic, multidimensional diplomacy in the broader region of eastern Mediterranean.

Focused overwhelmingly on the financial crisis, the Greek government tends to become alienated from what’s going on outside the country. Turkey would certainly try to benefit from that. By re-establishing a modern version of the common defence doctrine, Greece could avert the possible – usually dangerous for regional stability – revisionist plans of Ankara. As a clear response to Turkey’s expansionary policies, Greece – along with the Republic of Cyprus – has to unfold a new, powerful diplomatic action of multiple forms.

As a long-term objective, Athens has to re-organise its alliances in the region; to strengthen its ties with countries like Israel, Syria, Armenia and Egypt. Being traditionally a factor of political stability in the Euroasiatic neighbourhood, Greece must confirm once again its regional geostrategic significance as a counterbalance to Turkey’s new, pretty ambitious, diplomatic approaches. Nicolas Mottas is a PHD political researcher and analyst based in Thessalonki specialising in Greek and Near East Affairs