One of the most difficult tasks in the Foreign Ministry must be the job of the spokesperson of the Ministry. When they appear in front of the press, the spokespersons have to give enough information to satisfy the journalists while at the same time not say anything about the essence of the matter, a mission almost impossible to achieve. Sometimes they have to defend policies and practices that they personally do not believe in, and occasionally they have to spin the blunders of politicians. The US State Department Spokesperson’s answers on the recent Turkey-Greece tension at his press conference on September 28, were a very clear example of this.
US State Department Spokesperson Price is in trouble
Probably the most unfortunate one, among all the spokespersons is Ned Price, the spokesperson of the State Department. Current American foreign policy is full of zig-zags. Despite all the criticism Press conferences in Washington are still held in a free environment. No journalist is black listed and no critical question is avoided.
I would highly recommend you to watch the US State Department Spokesperson, Ned Price, answering questions about relations with Turkey at his press conference on September 28, which is also floating in the social media. In the face of repeated questions Price is finally forced to officially admit under the guise of “national interest” that the US is applying double standards against Turkey.
His subsequent statements seem to aim to put Turkey in a difficult situation.
The USA as a part of the problem
The USA, which was a part of the solution to the Turkey-Greece tension during the 1995-1996 Kardak-Imia islet crisis, is nowadays rapidly becoming a part of the tension. The protest note-verbals, which are considered as a common practice in Turkish-Greek relations, are now conveyed to the US side as well. In addition to the Greek Ambassador, the US Ambassador is also summoned to the Ministry.
Until now, the USA was careful not to take sides, at least in its official statements, on the problems between Turkey and Greece. US spokespersons used to resort to evasive answers to questions about Turkish-Greek problems by emphasizing that both countries are important NATO allies. It is no longer possible to say that the USA is the neutral vis-à-vis Turkey and Greece.
While answering the question of the Turkish state-run Anadolu News Agency reporter at the last press conference, Spokesperson Ned Price said that “Greece’s sovereignty over these (Aegean) islands is not in question” after saying that “we would refer you to specific governments regarding any deployment of their own defence equipment. That is not something for us to speak to”. What these two sentences mean when uttered together is that “Greece can arm the islands as it wishes, and we cannot accept Turkey’s interruption”.
Cyprus and September 28 NSC statement
As if it was not enough to poison the Turkish-Greek tension, the USA now seems to turn the island of Cyprus into an arms depot. Two weeks ago, Washington abruptly lifted the arms embargo that it had imposed on the Greek Cypriot administration in 1987. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also announced that in this case, Turkey would reinforce its fortifications in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Apparently, the Russia-Ukraine war was not enough for the US arms dealers so they are looking for new markets.
The statement issued after the September 28 meeting of Turkey’s National Security Council (NSC) includes important messages regarding Cyprus as well as the relations between Turkey and Greece. One week after President Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, this time by virtue of the statement of NSC, the international community was called upon to recognize the TRNC.
Cyprus and Turkey – Greece
I wish it was possible to promote recognition of the TRNC with such calls without using diplomacy.
In the NSC statement about Greece, after drawing attention to Greece’s provocative behaviour, it is strongly emphasized that “for the protection of the rights and interests of our nation, we will not refrain from using all kinds of legitimate methods and means within the framework of international law”. The emphasis on international law and legitimate methods is a positive course of action in terms of taking this trump card from Greece, which has recently been pretending to be an apostle of peace.
Meanwhile, the exchange letters between of the Turkish and Greek Permanent Representatives to the UN continue in New York. Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, sent a new letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on September 17 regarding the armament of the islands. This letter is in response to the letter of the Permanent Representative of Greece, Mario Theofili, dated May 25.
What can Turkey do?
What can Turkey do within the framework of international law, apart from exchange of letters? The first thing that comes to mind is to apply to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). However, from the beginning, Greece, which always talks about international law, has rejected the involvement of the ICJ in most of its problems with Turkey. Among the other options is to bring Greece’s arming of the islands to the UN Security Council as a violation of international agreements. Considering the veto rights of France and the USA, it seems almost impossible for the Security Council to take a decision in favour of Turkey. At present, Turkey is not a member of the security council. Even if it is succeeded to somehow include the issue to the agenda of the Security Council, with its current formation, there is always a risk that the majority of the members may speak in favour of views of Greece.
Such a situation may create results that Turkey does not want at all.
Every step in Turkey-Greece relations must be very carefully planned and taken accordingly.