A new decision by a Turkish court rejecting the request of the two Greek army officers, to be released from prison pending trial, proves in the clearest manner that this debacle will drag on for quite a while.
Erdogan’s tactic is to let time go buy, piling up the pressure on Athens, while indirectly but clearly linking the release of the Greek officers with Ankara’s request for the extradition of eight Turkish army officers seeking asylum in Greece, who are accused of participation in the 2016 coup against Erdogan.
Despite the recent urgings of European leaders – who met with Erdogan in Varna, Bulgaria – that he release the two officers as a show of good will, the uncontrollable Turkish leader insists on maintaining the same aggressive posture, perpetuating a climate of tension between the two countries .
He pretends that he is interested in pursuing Turkey’s EU accession course, but he thumbs his nose when called upon to comply with the rules of good neighbourly relations that this presupposes.
The Greek government, which at the beginning completely underestimated the situation, in the belief that it would be routinely resolved with on the spot negotiation, is now trapped in an awkward position, pinning its hopes on the mediation of third parties, which has proven inadequate to date.
The defense minister has responded to the situation with easy and ineffective games of communication and ultra-patriotic pronouncements, while we heard the even more dangerous, mindless proposal for an exchange of the Turkish officers seeking asylum for the Greek officers who have been imprisoned for a month without any charges being filed.
Clearly, the situation is neither simple nor easy to manage. When you are dealing with Erdogan, who is peddling untrammeled nationalism and has no compunction about provoking even his country’s traditional allies, there is limited room for communication.
Yet, it is equally apparent that the captivity of the two Greek officers cannot drag on, with the Greek response being limited to pleas.
The only course of action that the Greek side has is to mobilise all its diplomatic forces, and request the substantive – and not merely verbal – support of its allies in Europe, Nato, and elsewhere.
It must also forge a solid internal front, which will serve as a bulwark against any Turkish provocations.