Just a few months ago there were fears in Western capitals – and Athens – of a military escalation between Greece and Turkey on the way to the Turkish elections. These concerns were fueled by the Turkish president’s endless provocations towards Greece and the almost daily violations of Greek sovereignty in the airspace over the Aegean. Erdogan’s “politics of provocations”, as a German diplomat described it, it is now a thing of the past. We are witnessing a “turn” in Greek-Turkish relations. More than any other politician in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias verbalizes climate change when he repeatedly refers to his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu as “my friend Mevlut” and talks about the “good climate” that exists between the two countries . This happened recently at the Delphi Economic Forum.

“window of opportunity”

The conference in this mythical place, which is often referred to as the “Davos of the Mediterranean” has become an important international informal summit, where the main challenges of our time are discussed and – as in the case of Greek-Turkish relations – new developments are announced. Although – this could not be done otherwise – the issue of Ukraine dominated the agenda, the statements and hints heard about the Greek-Turkish language in Delphi are, in my opinion, even more important for Greek politics.

The message in a few words: After the elections in Turkey and Greece, there will be an internationally coordinated new effort resolving the differences between the two countries. While last year there was talk of the risk of escalation, now top Western diplomats are coordinating for a “window of opportunity.” The US and Germany want to play a central role in the new Western initiative.

The division of tasks between Berlin and Washington already became visible when last December the Germans brought top diplomats from the two countries to the negotiating table in Brussels after months without direct Greek-Turkish communication. Berlin’s secret diplomacy laid the groundwork for the so-called “earthquake diplomacy” launched immediately after the natural disaster in Turkey in early February.

Meanwhile, leading politicians on both sides of the Aegean state that good climate is a prerequisite to initiate a new political process. “We will see a very serious effort to solve the problems after the elections” the US ambassador to Athens, Georges Tsounis, said with rare clarity in Delphi. Jens Pletner’s statements move in the same direction. The German chancellor’s adviser told Delphi that the elections in both countries “offer a good opportunity for a positive boost for stability in the region.”

Greek-Turkish tensions are “poison” for NATO

As if in agreement, the top German and US diplomats added that the mediation offer is of course only valid if it is accepted from the governments in Athens and Ankara. The American ambassador went a step further by pointing out that there is a “willingness to compromise” on both sides. “The differences can be resolved,” said Tsounis, since after all “it is not about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.” He then uttered a phrase that the Greek government would prefer not to hear: “Neither side, (meaning neither the Greeks nor the Turks) have a monopoly on what is right and what is wrong.” Western diplomats admit they did not do enough in the past to promote a solution to the Greek-Turkish disputes. The war in Ukraine has created a new situation, and again explains the urgency of the matter.

The strategic importance of Greece and Turkey has increased greatly from February 2022. Tension, or even an open conflict, on NATO’s southeastern flank it is poison for the Western alliance in its fight against Russia. Washington and Berlin are determined to “neutralize” this poison. The coming months will prove whether or not the governments emerging from the elections in Athens and Ankara will accept the allies’ offer of mediation.

Dr. Ronald Mainardus is a political analyst and commentator and Principal Researcher of ELIAMEP. In the mid-90s he was director of the Greek editorial office of Deutsche Welle.