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Greece’s Syriza starts afresh with Turkey February 17, 2015

Posted by Yilan in Turkey, Yunanistan.
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Greece’s Syriza starts afresh with Turkey

Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA party leader and winner of the Greek parliamentary elections, signs papers appointing him the first leftist prime minister. (Photo: Reuters)

Following the left-wing Syriza party’s election victory on Sunday under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras, the new coalition government is not expected to make any radical policy changes in Greek-Turkish relations and is likely to follow the same policies on Cyprus and the Aegean, while continuing to support Turkey’s European Union membership.

Only short two parliamentarians to form a majority government, 40-year-old Tsipras swiftly struck a deal on Monday with the Independent Greeks party — a small right-wing party that is also anti-austerity — to form a government.

The success of a left-wing party like Syriza means a positive change for the Turkish minority in Western Thrace as well. Tsipras’ party is known for its moderate approach towards the Turkish minority and three members of the Turkish minority community in Western Thrace have been elected to the Greek parliament under Syriza.

Two of the parliamentarians of Turkish origin, Mustafa Mustafa and Ayan Karayusuf, have won in Komotini; meanwhile, Hüseyin Zeybek won in the Xanthi province.

Another positive expectation is that of no change in Greece’s support for Turkey’s EU membership.

In the first comments on the strong win for the leftist Syriza party in the elections, Turkey said on Monday that it respects the choice of the Greek people and that it was ready to work with any party that comes to power, especially on the Cyprus problem and tensions in the Aegean. “Everybody should show respect. We certainly respect the decision of the Greek people. We are ready to work with any government elected to power,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart after talks in Ankara.

The foreign minister said Turkey wants to restart reunification talks in Cyprus and hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean in a manner that protects the rights of Turkish Cypriots. “Greece has an important role to play in these matters. We are willing to work with Greece in both restarting the Cyprus talks and easing existing tensions,” he said, adding: “Of course, we want to maintain contact with Greece. We would like to continue exploratory talks on reducing tensions in the Aegean and resolving existing problems.”

Turkey and Greece are at odds over the fate of Cyprus and territorial rights in the Aegean. UN-backed reunification talks between Turkish and Greek communities of Cyprus came to a halt in October when the Greek Cypriot side announced that it had suspended the talks in protest of Turkey’s plan to search for oil and gas in waters where the Greek Cypriot administration had already licensed drilling.

The two neighbors have also been holding talks on how to resolve their disputes regarding their territorial rights in the Aegean.

Despite the Cyprus and Aegean disputes, however, Ankara and Athens maintain good relations, and Greece is a supporter of Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Çavuşoğlu said Greek governments have traditionally been supportive of, or at least not opposed to, Turkey’s accession into the EU and that Turkey expected the new Greek government to support or at least not obstruct the Turkish bid.

Çavuşoğlu further stated that the Turkish delegation had a “very productive” meeting with Tsipras during a visit by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to Greece in December, in which the two sides discussed bilateral relations, the situation in Europe and the Cyprus issue.

No radical policy changes in short term

 

Thanos Dokos, the director-general of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), said that he does not expect any significant changes in Greece-Turkey relations under Syriza.

“They will follow roughly the same policy on Cyprus and the Aegean. Also, the emphasis will be on their domestic agenda, as well as relations with Greece’s European partners, not foreign policy issues,” Dokos told Today’s Zaman on Monday.

“Therefore, it is unlikely that they will make any radical policy changes during the next few months — with the possible exception of the continued application of European sanctions against Russia,” he added.

Dokos also stated that there is a tendency inside Syriza to implement some positive changes regarding the Muslim minority in Western Thrace, such as enabling the collective self-determination of minority groups.

“However, such tendencies may be offset by the strong conservative/nationalistic positions of their coalition partners, the Independent Greeks,” said Dokos.

Many political circles in Greece stress the importance of the person to be picked for the position of foreign minister in the new Greek government. One of the names who being considered for this position is Foreign Ministry adviser Nikos Kotzias, who is known to be critical of Turkey.

Mustafa Mustafa, a parliamentarian of Turkish origin who was elected under Syriza on Sunday, told Today’s Zaman that Syriza’s victory means the policies followed by the New Democrats and Pasot parties in past years have collapsed.

“There are many issues in the country waiting to be resolved, and the former ruling parties have exploited issues such as the minority issue in their election campaign and not honored their promises after coming to office. On top of that we have experienced an economic crisis, and in the end our community supported Syriza because Syriza is a party which openly supports human rights, democracy, equality and social justice,” Mustafa told Today’s Zaman in a phone interview on Monday.

Mustafa said that there have been some positive developments in Turkey-Greece relations after the troubled period in the late ’90s and that, with Syriza coming to power, this positive trend will continue.

“We are a party that seeks to have a positive and consistent relationship with its neighbors based on international law, mutual respect … . And as a Turkish minority community in Greece, our expectation is that the relationship between Turkey and Greece will improve with this new government,” said Mustafa.

Mustafa said he expects his party will succeed on this difficult road ahead. “I send my great respect, love and friendship to Turkish people,” he added.

In a press statement on Monday, the head of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), Halit Habipoğlu, said: “We start afresh in our country Greece. People said no to the politicians representing the former order. Greece voted for change in Sunday’s election. This is not a change in social and economic areas. Greece will be rebuilt. We hope to enjoy an environment in the country in which we all enjoy freedom of expression.”

He also stressed that the Turkish minority wants more rights and fair treatment from the new government based on the principles of equal rights and democracy.

Cenk Sidar — the founder of Sidar Global Advisors (SGA), a Washington-based consulting firm — stressed that Turkish opposition parties, including leftist parties, should observe the example of Greece after the victory of the left-wing Syriza party.

In his column on the Turkish web portal Diken, Sidar said a young and dynamic team with a clear message would have a chance to win against a strong ruling party in Turkey, as happened in Greece.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Adana deputy Faruk Loğoğlu said the election victory for Syriza is a positive development for Greece and that it will subsequently have a positive effect on Turkey as well.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Loğoğlu said: “But in the short run, the new steps and reforms the new Greek government will follow are not likely to be reflected in bilateral relations.”

Loğoğlu said he doesn’t expect a significant change regarding the Aegean continental shelf issue or the ethnically divided island of Cyprus. He stressed that all the parties in Greece see Cyprus as part of the Hellenic world.

Veteran diplomat Loğoğlu also said that the Turkish minority in Western Thrace will be affected positively by this change, as left-wing parties like Syriza have a positive approach to minorities.

He said there may be some positive changes such as expanded acceptance of the use of the Turkish language, the appointment of muftis and the election of members of the Turkish minority to office.

With regards to the potential problems between Greece and the EU on austerity issues, Loğoğlu said the EU and Greece have the capacity to overcome them.

“The EU will find a way out of its problems with Greece. There were other crises in the EU before, including eurozone issues, and the EU was able to overcome these problems,” Loğoğlu said.

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