Dr. Evangelos Venetis
Expert on Islam and the Middle East
Resuming the passenger air connection between Athens and Istanbul last week is an important development in the fields of transport and tourism as well as the bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey.
The significance of this development can been better understood by the fact that passenger flights between the two countries were suspended for about 13 months, something that has not happened again in peacetime except for the crisis in Cyprus in 1974.
The cessation of air communication in early 2020 was officially due to the pandemic but may also have a political flavor due to the political tension between the two countries resulting from the immigration crisis and the EEZ issue. After the selective opening of the air connections between Greece and Turkey with third countries last spring, the passenger flights between Greece and Turkey did not resume, namely the key flight Athens-Istanbul. During the last summer season, the continuing disruption of air, ferry and bus connections seems to have contributed to the loss-making situation for tourism in both countries, with the exception of the passage of private cars and taxis from the Kipi border crossing of Evros. The border crossing of Kastania remains closed from February 2020 to this day.
Obviously, tourism on both sides of the Aegean has been damaged by both the pandemic and the crisis in bilateral relations that has erupted over the past year. The resumption of flights between the two countries may be the result of the 62 Round of Greek-Turkish Exploratory Contacts held in Athens on March 16, 2021 and the efforts made by both sides to improve their relations.
Due to the instability of bilateral relations and given that so far there is no progress on the EEZ and the continental shelf issues, the hope expressed by the business world of both countries is that tourism and their economic relations will not be further damaged. Depending on developments related to the pandemic, the continuation of flights and the possible reopening of ferry and road lines between the two countries are expected to be an important factor in the process of defusing bilateral tensions.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.