Greece raises Turkey spat with EU as Ankara says dialogue boosted

Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis raised Turkey’s resumption of its drilling for gas off the coast of Cyprus and its air violations of Greek airspace at a European Union summit on Thursday.

The issues were raised even though they had not been on the official summit agenda, and Mitsotakis stressed the need for the EU to send a clear message to Ankara regarding its behaviour, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini said. 

Turkey resumed its drilling off the Cypriot coast using the ship Yavuz this week, which Greece and Cyrpus said was the sixth illegal drilling operation by Ankara in Cypriot waters.

Ankara objects to Cyprus and Greece’s gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and says the northern Turkish Cypriot state, which only Turkey recognises, should receive a fair share from gas resources of the disputed island.

Turkish fighter jets committed 35 violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean on Thursday, 10 of which were flights over the islands of Chios, Oinousses, and Panagia, Kathimerini said. 

Greece has been monitoring a large ongoing Turkish air and naval exercise taking place south of Crete and southeast of Rhodes, the Greek Reporter said on Thursday, citing defence sources in Athens.

The exercise, dubbed Mavi Vatan, or Blue Homeland, reportedly began on Wednesday and is planned to conclude on May 3.

Meanwhile, a senior Turkish diplomat said on Wednesday that dialogue between Turkey and the EU had benefited during the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus, despite political obstacles. 

"COVID-19 has led to an increase in dialogue that was blocked politically between the EU and Turkey. We hope we can get more effective results,” Faruk Kaymakcı, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister and Director for EU Affairs, said during a webinar.

Kaymakcı said that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could hold a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the next few days to discuss Turkey’s desire to take part in a donors’ conference on May 4 about the development of a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19. 

Kaymakcı also said that although the issue of migration between Turkey and the EU had become less of a priority during the pandemic, it would re-emerge in the future.

"We hope that a new agreement on migration is made between Turkey and the EU in the coming weeks," he said.