Turkey, Greece struggle to agree on agenda for talks
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu accused Greece of raising obstacles to exploratory talks and trying to undermine the process for a thaw between the two countries, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
Turkey and Greece disagree on the scope of upcoming exploratory talks to take place on Jan. 25. The Turkish government wants to discuss a range of outstanding issues with its NATO ally, but Athens has repeatedly said that it will only discuss maritime border delineation.
“It is not right to say that we are holding exploratory talks by narrowing the subjects to one issue,” Çavuşoğlu said at a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Ankara, according to Bloomberg.
Mass was in Turkey to encourage the talks designed to de-escalate a political and military standoff between the Mediterranean neighbours over offshore territorial claims.
The talks are “meant to examine whether there is any convergence so that we can enter into negotiations on the one and only issue that concerns us – and that is the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean on the basis of international law”, Greek government spokesman Christos Tarantilis said at a briefing, as cited by the news agency.
If a common ground is found, then Athens can consider discussing other matters in later meetings, he said.
Any attempt to expand the talk’s agenda to other issues, such as the status of Greece’s Muslim minority, the demilitarisation of islands, or Greece’s air space, could be a deal-breaker for Athens, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would face an internal backlash from opening up such matters, Bloomberg said.
The European Union has threatened to expand its sanctions list on Turkey for continuing its hydrocarbon surveying and military posturing in the eastern Mediterranean after the country sent mixed signals about reconciling with Greece.
“We don’t fear EU sanctions,” Çavuşoğlu said. “But we want to continue our relations with a positive agenda, we believe that this process will continue with mutual positive steps.”
Turkey and Greece have engaged in NATO-brokered technical military talks, a separate de-escalation process designed to avoid an incident. The Turkish Defence Ministry said one such meeting with Greek counterparts was taking place on Monday in Brussels, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.