Germany is failing with mediation role between Turkey, Greece - analysis

Germany is failing in its mediation role in the dispute over eastern Mediterranean territorial claims between Turkey and Greece, news website New Europe said in an analysis on Thursday.

Tensions have risen in the region between NATO allies Turkey and Greece after Ankara sent the Oruç Reis research vessel into territorially disputed waters earlier this month, causing a military standoff at risk of escalating into a direct confrontation.

Germany sent its foreign minister, Heiko Maas, to speak with senior officials in Athens and Ankara this week in an effort towards de-escalation. However, the diplomatic mission was a failure, according to New Europe.

Maas failed to persuade Turkey to change its approach and was left standing in despair at Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s side while the latter grabbed the opportunity to lash out against Greece during a joint press briefing, the website said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not recalled the Oruç Reis and its naval escort despite telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he was willing to reopen talks with Greece, New Europe said. The last round of “exploratory talks” between the Mediterranean neighbours took place in March 2016 but were interrupted for various reasons including a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 of that year.

On Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for reconciliation talks with Turkey on the condition that it ceased its aggressive activities in the eastern Mediterranean. However, Turkey has shown little indication that it is willing to do so.

There is a deep conviction in Athens that Turkey is trying to use the distraction – and opportunity – presented by the global coronavirus pandemic to unleash Erdoğan’s irredentist plans for the eastern Mediterranean, New Europe said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, whose isolationist policies have largely sidelined the U.S. in international affairs, called both Mitsotakis and Erdoğan on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Trump’s recent attention towards the regional dispute is significant given U.S.-Greek ties and his warm relations with Erdoğan, New Europe said.