Strange Bedfellows: Turkey Offers Greece Aid to Remedy Financial Crisis

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Multiple factions within the Turkish government have expressed a willingness to help the Greek government repay its debts to the European Union, from a general statement by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that Turkey will do “whatever we can” to help Greece to the nation’s leftist party suggesting a massive loan to the Greek government in solidarity.

“We are ready to do whatever we can in terms of cooperation in tourism, energy and trade,” Davutoglu said in remarks this week regarding the Greece’s default to the IMF, marking the first time a developed country has defaulted. “We want Greece to be strong… Therefore, Turkey will be positive toward any proposal for cooperation,” Davutoglu said. The Turkish PM also announced that a Turkish delegation would be traveling to Greece to negotiate on trade and development.

The statement followed a meeting between the Turkish and Greek foreign ministers in which increased trade cooperation was a major topic. In a statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry described the meeting as “very warm,” noting that the Turkish foreign minister “assured [Greek Foreign Minister] Mr. Kotzias of the solidarity of the Turkish people and the political and state leadership of Turkey with the Greek government’s efforts to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with its partners in the eurozone.”

In addition to the Turkish government, currently ruled by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), the largely Kurdish leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), one of the bigger winners of last month’s parliamentary elections, has issued multiple statements urging Greece to work with Turkey to pay their European debts. “We are together with the Greek people and their government in their struggle for justice, equality and democracy and against austerity,” the party said in an official statement.

Ertuğrul Kürkçü, an HDP representative in Parliament, took that solidarity one step further, urging the Turkish Parliament to make a $1.6 billion loan to Greece in order for the nation to make their latest payment to the EU and IMF. “Turkey can undertake 1.6 billion euro debt that Greece needs to pay. It is the biggest help that Turkey can do for its neighbor when times are tough. In exchange, it will earn the friendship of Greek people; turn the Aegean Sea into a sea of peace,” he stated, adding that Turkey had spent $1.9 billion in humanitarian aid in 2013, and that such a loan would be little different from that expenditure. “Turkey’s resources are sufficient enough to make this aid to Greece. This support can also be offered to Greece as zero interest loan,” he concluded.

The HDP, representing both Turkish interests and a variety of minorities including Christians, leftists, and feminists, is considered an ideological ally of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), currently governing Greece. The outpouring of support to Greece from Turkey is a historical anomaly, however, as the Washington Post explains:

Through an armed insurrection, Greece won its independence from the Ottomans — from Istanbul rule — in 1821. A century later, amid the bloody struggles that followed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the modern Turkish republic, hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of new national borders would be forced to quit their homes and relocate. The Mediterranean island of Cyprus also has been a source of territorial dispute between Greece and Turkey since the 1960s, with a Turkish-Cypriot republic in the northern part of the island recognized only by Turkey.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has attempted multiple agreements with Greek creditors in the past 48 hours, including sending a letter to the EU and IMF that appears to suggest Syriza is “prepared to accept” terms previously rejected that would require the Greek government to curb its expenditures. The letter followed a request for a third bailout that would have carried Greece through the next two years and was immediately rejected by all parties involved. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also rejected the second letter, arguing that the creditors cannot make any deals with Greece until July 5, when Tsipras has scheduled a referendum on whether Greece should accept the terms proposed by the EU and IMF. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble echoed this sentiment, suggesting there is “no basis” for further negotiations with Greece at the moment.

In a televised speech, Tsipras urged the Greek people to consider voting “no,” which would reject the EU’s terms. “Those who say ‘no’ means leaving the euro knowingly lied,” Tsipras asserted, suggesting that a “no” vote would represent “a return to the Europe of values” and “an aim towards a better deal.”