Dialogue is a valuable communication process that promotes mutual understanding between warring parties, thereby paving the way for conflict resolution. The dialogue can take the format of level 1.5 or level 2 diplomacy to maintain communication channels either when discussions between officials have ceased, or when it is necessary to involve civil society and expert groups . As is known, the Track-1.5 dialogue involves non-governmental experts as well as government officials who participate in an unofficial capacity, while Track-2 only engages unofficial members. Although both paths constitute what is called “indirect” diplomacy, neither has the formal importance of traditional diplomacy.
Because members of these meetings participate unofficially, they have unprecedented freedom to exchange views informally with counterparts they might otherwise view only as competitors or adversaries. These meetings provide time for “one-on-one walks in the woods” that can generate new ideas and new approaches to solving problems, without the much-needed pressure of diplomatic summits.
It is in this logic that the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), an international foundation bringing together 54 member states and the canton of Geneva which facilitates discussions between civil servants, military officers, diplomats, experts and civil society, provides substantial support. and serves as the secretariat of the Eastern Mediterranean Initiative (EMI). EMI is an inclusive dialogue platform for collective reflection and action that brings together experts from across the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Since 2020, GCSP has facilitated a series of Track-2 meetings between IME experts from Greece and Turkey to discuss maritime differences in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. The Swiss-sponsored Track-II meetings evolved into an interactive conflict resolution process that developed concepts for sustained dialogue between Greek and Turkish experts at a time when tensions were reaching a fever pitch between Greece and Turkey.
In fact, nine Track-2 meetings took place as well as respective meetings in Greece and Turkey during which experts from both sides discussed the differences over the maritime zones of the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, and not the questions of “national sovereignty”. The Greek and Turkish experts, participating in a private capacity, created dialogues that would otherwise be impossible due to the frequent communication deficits between their countries. For example, exploratory talks resumed in January 2021 after a five-year hiatus.
As a result, these Track-2 meetings organized by the GCSP, freed from the constraints of formal government-to-government discussions, took place in a carefully maintained climate of openness. The meetings created a sense of comfort and trust, encouraging otherwise wary and distant experts from both countries to engage, share ideas and develop a joint statement. The statement comes at a time when Greece and Turkey are prioritizing dialogue to resolve their maritime disputes. The meeting of the Greek Prime Minister with the Turkish President on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius after the devastating earthquake in Turkey, during which Greek relief teams were sent to the affected areas, provided a boost the drivers of a formal action-oriented process (Track-1) dialogue between the two countries. Political dialogue, confidence-building measures and positive agenda are the three pillars of the Greek-Turkish partnership. reconciliation.
Let’s continue the dialogue
The statement of the Greek and Turkish members of the EMI, including Professor Yücel Acer, Lieutenant General (retired) Ioannis Anastasakis, Ms. Antonia Dimou, Professor Talha Köse, Professor Petros Liacouras and Professor Zuhal Mert Uzuner , is the following :
A hundred years ago, the Turks and Greeks ended decades of fighting with the Treaty of Lausanne. In just a few years, this led to an almost miraculous friendship between the two countries. But since then, new conflicts have arisen over issues that were not addressed in Lausanne, including the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean Sea and beyond, as the law of the sea evolved globally.
However, the issues to be resolved are much less complex and painful than those that were resolved a hundred years ago. And the reward for overcoming differences would be a huge win-win situation for both nations. The path to a resolution will not be easy and will require a willingness to accommodate everyone’s crucial and legitimate concerns. The fact that the supreme principle of customary international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is that of “equity” could go a long way in overcoming differences.
The Greek and Turkish people have lived side by side for hundreds of years, sharing the same geography and developing commonalities in culture and customs. It is a fact, proven by countless personal meetings and recent opinion surveys in both countries, that on a personal level, Greeks and Turks get along well and do not consider each other enemies. All of us, as individuals and members of our respective societies, can contribute in this spirit to overcoming the persistent prejudices and distorted conceptions of the other side and to creating some degree of understanding of their legitimate concerns. This is necessary if common ground is to be found.
Thus, we can encourage and support our leaders in their efforts to complete the foundations of peaceful and fruitful good-neighborly coexistence established a hundred years ago. They have recently decided to engage in an enhanced dialogue process and deserve our full support in this endeavour. The success of their search for common ground will have positive repercussions beyond our borders, throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. At a time when political differences in the north of our region have led to unbearable bloodshed and destruction, this could inspire others.
Once again, the Eastern Mediterranean region, the cradle of various civilizations, could become a beacon for humanity. Let’s not waste this opportunity.