Moderate expectations for Brussels talks between Turkish, Greek leaders

Seeking to build on the recent relative easing in tensions, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meet Monday in Brussels on the sidelines of the NATO Summit and talk through interpreters.

The overarching aim of their talks is to achieve what failed to take place at the previous two meetings, in September 2019 in New York and December 2019 in London – i.e. to create a personal channel of communication between the two leaders.

In the previous two meetings, the two leaders were surrounded by multi-member delegations. While the first meeting was conducted in a moderate climate, the second, shortly after the signing of the Turkish-Libyan maritime borders memorandum, took place in an icy atmosphere. 

From then until now a series of mediation efforts have been undertaken with minimal success, especially during the period between February and November 2020, which included the attempt by migrants to invade Greece at the Evros land border, assisted by Ankara, and the months-long crisis in the area south and southeast of Rhodes and Kastellorizo in 2020.

At the same time, Greece achieved certain objectives on the European level, especially in terms of dealing with Turkey. However, what really led to a temporary lull in Ankara’s provocations in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean was the defeat of Donald Trump in the U.S. elections and the emergence of Joe Biden, a sworn Euro-Atlanticist and multilateralist.

Biden is scheduled to meet Erdoğan Monday and expected to press him over Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 weapons system. According to recent statements by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S. president intends to raise the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.

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