Greece’s Ex-Premier Samaras Says Turkey Needs Sticks, Not Carrots

ATHENS – As Greek and Turkish officials were set to sit down Jan. 15 in Constantinople for exploratory talks about rights to the seas, Former prime minister Antonis Samaras warned that diplomacy isn’t going to work.

Samaras headed a former New Democracy government and dealt often with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has become more combative and planning to renew an energy hunt off Greek islands.

The European Union has already backed away from sanctions that Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis asked for after initially pulling them back.

Samaras said the idea of taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands wouldn’t be a good tactic and suggested Turkey is playing Greece and the EU and will proceed with drilling anyway.

“Anyone can understand that the international community will not ‘punish’ a country that is formally engaged in a negotiation,” Samaras told Kathimerini, with reports EU leaders were now leaning toward Turkey’s position.

Turkey disputes Greek claims to waters in the Aegean and East Mediterranean where it plans to look for oil and gas, including off Crete, citing a maritime deal with Libya no other country recognizes.

Mitsotakis, unable to keep Erdogan from forging ahead as the EU – with Germany selling arms to Turkey that could be used against Greece – has been reluctant to confront the Turkish leader.

Mitsotakis offered The Hague as an alternative but Erdogan isn’t biting yet and Samars said going to the international court would be tantamount “to relinquishing the positive provisions of international law”Turkey doesn’t accept.

He said that Greece should continue, as Mitsotakis has done, is build “strong alliances” in the region. “You cannot appease an expansionist [state]. This will only make it more relentless. An expansionist (state) can only be dealt with by deterrence,” he said.

The two countries   have been on the brink of a conflict a number of times over the past year after Erdogan sent an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

He pulled them back ahead of EU meetings to discuss sanctions, twice winning more time with the bloc’s leaders not due to talk about it again until March with signs Erdogan is winning them over with his strategy.


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