With Turkey and Greece at times at a razor’s edge and fears of a conflict over claims to the seas, an American think-tank analyst has suggested that U.S. President Joe Biden be a mediator to help settle it.
Nicholas Saidel Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response at the University of Pennsylvania wrote for the influential U.S. site The Hill that Biden has Congressional authority to help broker a solution.
“All Biden must do is act, and the time is ripe for American leadership and statecraft,” although Biden wants to sell Turkey more F-16s that could be used against Greece at the same time the United States and Greece renewed a military cooperation pact, the United States as usual playing to both sides.
But Saidel said Biden would be the key player to help stabilize the Eastern Mediterranean, the piece coming as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sending a drillship there to hunt for energy off Cyprus and likely soon to encroach on Greek waters and islands.
“Direct negotiations between Greece and Turkey have stalled indefinitely, weakening NATO and the West, as troops and resources are being diverted to fend off each other, rather than deterring adversaries such as Russia,” Saidel wrote.
He didn’t note, however, that Turkey bought Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, an ideological enemy of the defense alliance and refused to go along with European Union sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
The piece noted that Greece banned Turkey from a NATO exercise in May after Turkish fighter jets violated Greek airspace 125 times in 24 hours,
showing how hot the potential is for trouble breaking out.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Greek Defense Minister his Greek counterpart, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos to reiterate U.S. support for Greece’s security and sovereignty over Turkish threats, with Erdogan bemoaning the United States seen as siding more with Greece.
“Robust U.S. diplomacy in the form of maritime dispute mediation would help bring order and cohesion to NATO allies and would have the downstream effect of cordoning off areas of opportunity for Russia – and China, to boot,” said Saidel.
He added: “Successfully brokered U.S.-sponsored talks would strengthen American ties to the region and help to restrain a recalcitrant … Erdogan,” who is still trying to get US-made F-35s denied after the S-400 missile defense buy and for more F-16’s and upgrading Turkey’s Air Force.
He noted it wouldn’t be easy. “Engaging Erdoğan will require vigilance. Some analysts rightfully point out that Turkey is unreliable, deceptive, and cooperates with our adversaries, including Russia,” he said.
“Given the strong congressional mandate for hosting talks and the escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. should mediate the dispute between Turkey and Greece-Cyprus,” he said.
But there’s another problem not noted: Erdogan said he won’t talk to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis because the Greek leader, in an address to the U.S. Congress, asked lawmakers to block F-16 sales to Turkey.