A meeting in London between the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the number two of the Greek foreign ministry, Dimitris Droutsas, added to this "new beginning" dynamic: both men, the news said, agreed there is much to work on and that Greece and Turkey have a "common future" that must not be squandered. Droutsas also accepted an invitation to visit Ankara with a smile. Davutoglu was quoted saying that “We both believe Turkish-Greek relations should enter a new era. The pattern in ties should change in a positive direction."

The "new beginning" though, when and if it comes, will unfold against a familiar not-too-positive background: mass Turkish air force armed violations of Greek air space over the Aegean and constant Turkish challenges of Greek sovereignty in the Archipelago; intense clandestine Turkish activity in Greek Thrace aiming to "energize" the "Turkishness" of the Muslim population there; Turkish maneuvering within NATO to promote Turkey's expansionist visions in the Aegean against tepid allied opposition; a maximalist Turkish position on Cyprus, with the aim of maintaining the occupation of half of the island and pushing, eventually, toward annexing the puppet "Turkish Cypriot republic" that popped up from under Turkish army bayonets in 1983; news in the Turkish press suggesting that the army generals, involved in the Ergenekon conspiracy, were planning an attack on Greece in order to undermine Erdogan's Islamist government; and Turkey pushing hundreds of thousands of wretched Asian and African illegal immigrants onto the Greek Aegean islands in a not-too-thinly veiled attempt to destabilize Greek society and create longer term "melting pot" deadlocks to a country that seems unable to do anything drastic to protect itself from this scourge.

What a way to launch a "new beginning" indeed!

Looking a little deeper into the "common future" Davutoglu and Dhroutsas discovered in London, the picture is even more disappointing. Turkey has not moved not even an iota away from its standard positions of demanding "equitable" sharing of the Aegean and "arrangements" in Thrace that could lead to the "Kosovo-ization" of the region. With the European option growing more distant by the day for Turkey, Ankara has perceptibly shifted toward "greater and grander things" -- like a neo-Ottoman vision of a Turkish "sphere of influence" extending in every possible direction. With its internal contradictions unresolved and burgeoning, and the confrontation between "moderate" Islamists and the army heating up, Turkey is as unpredictable as ever.

Greece, meantime, grows weaker by the day.

Unhinged by its enormous debts and deficits, with a domestic front plagued by uncertainty, confusion, and resentment over the rapid approach of the end of the epoch of fat cows with borrowed cash, and its politicians at the bottom of the credibility scale in every poll, "strong" Greece treads on the thinnest of social, economic, political, diplomatic, and security ice.

It is no wonder then that the Greek response to Erdogan's "peace attack" has been rather lukewarm, despite the "hopeful" language employed in public. The pull for "dialogue" though is irresistible, especially now that Greece is making the desperate rounds in the hope of securing promises of a bailout by its European "partners." Our "friends" have been unequivocal in their demands over the years for a "settlement" of the nagging Greek-Turkish "dispute" (i.e. Turkey's unilateral push for overthrowing the status quo in the Aegean) and this appears like an excellent opportunity to "persuade" Greece to settle.

Needless to say, "new" beginnings under such circumstances can be extremely perilous.

In his response to the Erdogan letter, the Greek prime minister has re-introduced the idea of Greece and Turkey resorting to the International Court of Justice on the question of the continental shelf. This appears to be the only "novel" element in the Greek understanding of the upcoming (?) "dialogue" -- an element that Turkey has repeatedly rejected, fearing a judicial ruling that could scuttle its schemes in the Aegean. Beyond that, there is nothing on the horizon that would indicate the "new beginning" has hopes of striking genuinely unexplored ground.

With Turkish strategic priorities undergoing a major reassessment, and with Greece under the thickening pall of its own insurmountable economic crisis, this is the poorest time for "new beginnings." Hopefully, our "leaders" will see that arriving at the table of negotiations carrying a beggar's bag isn't exactly the right opening move -- and pull back before it is too late.




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