November 16, 2015
In November 17-18 Greek PM Tsipras meets with Turkish PM Davutoglu and the President Erdogan in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. The Greek PM is expected to discuss a number of issues, with the refugee crisis on top of the agenda.
Alexis Tsipras’ visit in Turkey comes in a turbulent time where all the global attention is around Paris. It is also one day after G20 Summit in Antalya. The Greek PM intends to discuss with his homologue the situation in the Aegean Sea and the enhancement of cooperation on the refugee issue, as Athens vies for a definite agreement on the fight against smugglers and the creation of hotspots in Minor Asia to balance the burdens of the screening process and accelerate the identification in a more efficient way. So far Turkey has not put much attention on that, waiting for the release of EU financial assistance as part of the agreement to deal with 2,5 millions of Syrian refugees domestically.
The symbolism of Tsipras’ visit is of great importance as so far only Chancellor Merkel has met with Davutoglu and Erdogan on that matter — and this before national elections. The visit coincides with the EU assessment report on Turkey’s membership bid that is quite edgy on the human rights and freedom issues, pushing for more concrete actions from Ankara. Tsipras’ intention is to support Davutoglu and the progress Turkey is doing under the condition that Ankara will actually participate in burden-sharing of refugee crisis in the Aegean. The Greek PM rules out any joint cooperation in the sea, but favors the advancement of security controls in the Turkish coast.
Oh the energy issue, Tsipras and Davutoglu are about to discuss the prospects of the trilateral gas stream that the previous Syriza government has elaborated with Gazprom early April. This deal passes though Moscow and the intention of the Russian President Putin to build up a safe zone of trade and broaden Russia’s leverage in the Eastern Mediterranean region. This plan brings together Greece and Turkey, with the former receiving pressure from Brussels not to agree (i.e. due to Russian sanctions) and the latter having to chose another, cheaper route of supply stemming from Azerbaijan. Turkey has already established trade ties with SOCAR that provides gas, expanding its network and antagonizing Moscow. The Greek PM wants to develop the Russian triangle project, and for that purpose a team of Greek and Turkish experts is about to get established to discuss technicalities.
Discussions will also focus on terrorism and the growing threat that ISIS poses to Europe and Turkey. In that field we should expect a closer security and counter-intelligence cooperation. Greece’s firm intention is not to get militarily involved in Syria — and this is the stance Alexis Tsipras and Syriza have kept even before taking the reins of the country.
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Twitter: @rapidisDimitris Rapidis