Turkish officials do not expect this weekend's meeting between Prime Minister Turgut Ozal and his Greek counterpart to produce dramatic results. That the get-together is taking place at all, they say, is a positive and significant development.
Only last March, a dispute over oil exploration and drilling rights in the Aegean Sea brought the two neighbors close to war. Several months of ``letter diplomacy'' between Mr. Ozal and Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou since then resulted in an agreement to meet Jan. 30 and 31 in Davos, Switzerland.
Ozal has long been eager to resolve the main bilateral disputes, namely: rights in the Aegean, and the future of the Greek-dominated island of Cyprus, which has a Turkish population of 17 percent.
However, Ozal is also setting his sights on goals beyond these immediate issues.
One of his major aims, analysts here say, is to persuade the Greeks to stop blocking Turkey's bid for membership of the European Community. Another hope, some sources say, is that better ties with Greece might reduce the influence of the Greek lobby in far away Washington. (In recent years, Turkey has been disappointed in its efforts to get more American aid and sees the pro-Greek lobby as unduly influencing the US Congress.)
Rather than seeking outright political concessions this time around, however, Turkish officials say Ozal will give priority to ``confidence-building'' measures. Ozal is expected to present Papandreou a package of suggestions on ways to build mutual trust, including trade, economic cooperation, tourism, cultural exchanges, and revision of school history texts. He seems ready to make some gestures such as accepting the return to Turkey and restoration of property rights to members of the local Greek community who were expelled from Turkey during the 1960s.
The very touchy issue of Cyprus's sovereignty is one Ozal apparently wants to leave out of these talks. (Turkey has some 30,000 troops on the island to protect the interests of Cyprus's Turkish minority. The troops landed in 1974, in response to a Greek-backed coup attempt.) In the past Ozal has said the Cyprus issue is one that should to be settled mainly through talks between the leaders of the two communities with help from the UN.
But, Turkish officials say, if Papandreou raises the issue - and they expect him to - Ozal will not object to discussing it.
In Turkey, opposition leader Erdal Inonu and his aides have privately expressed the worry that Ozal might make concessions on the Aegean issue in order to obtain Greek support for Turkey's entry into the EC.
An Ozal aide, however, has strongly emphasized that the Davos meeting is only ``going to be an exploratory exercise, and not a bargaining session.''
``If the two leaders can agree to take confidence-building measures and to [continue having] a dialogue on their differences as well as on future cooperation,'' this senior official added, ``the Davos encounter should be considered as a success.''