Dendias heads to Middle East to derail possible Turkey-Palestine maritime accord

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is rushing to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday as part of an effort to pre-empt developments such as those that led to the Libya-Turkey maritime border memorandum.

Athens has been alerted of a reported plan for the demarcation of exclusive economic zones between Turkey and the Gaza Strip. His decision to travel to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah was made after consultations with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, at a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking to present himself as a lone defender of the Palestinians amid the escalating tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Ankara is pressuring the fragmented Palestinian authority to demarcate the EEZ off the coast of Turkey opposite the Greek island of Kastellorizo. 

Such an outcome would not only create serious problems for Greece and Cyprus, whose jurisdiction such a demarcation would violate, it would also be the final nail in the coffin of the efforts for an Israel-Turkey rapprochement. 

Dendias will meet with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

It was initially agreed that Dendias would meet his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah. However, al-Maliki withdrew, reportedly arguing that Athens is friendly to Israel and completely ignores the Palestinian positions. 

Dendias’ visit to the region was initially planned in consultation with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as Athens wanted to be in full harmony with the main Arab player in the region, Egypt. 

Dendias, the first official of an EU member-state to visit the region after the start of the conflict, will also participate in urgent video talks between European Union foreign ministers on developments in the region.

On the same day, Dendias will travel to Jordan for talks with Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, while on Thursday he will visit Cairo.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)