Greek, Turkish Defense Minsters Try to Cool Down Tensions

FILE - Newly appointed Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

ATHENS – After a fruitless meeting between their country’s leaders, Greek Defense Minister  Evangelos Apostolakis and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar are set to meet at NATO’s gathering in another bid to keep calm in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while preaching he wants good relations, has alternated that with having fighter jets violate Greek airspace and making claims on Greece’s Continental Shelf in a duel over who can hunt for potentially lucrative oil and gas finds in the waters.

Lurking is Erdogan’s unrelenting demands for the return of eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Greece after fleeing a failed coup against him in July, 2016 in which they denied taking part, and as Turkey put a 5.4 million-euro ($6.1 million) bounty on their heads and even threatened to kidnap them. They were being guarded by riot police at a Greek military barracks.

While talking conciliatory, Turkey still has a military presence in the East Mediterranean where it has sent an energy research ship into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and warning foreign companies licensed to drill there to stay out.

Erdogan also inaugurated the launch of a corvette spy ship that will be sent into the area to gather intelligence and as he has continued to step provocations, leaving open what the defense ministers will be able to agree.

Apostolakis will also meet the Defense Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Radmila Sekerinska, said Kathimerini.

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