After their countries’ defense ministers met in a bid to ratchet down tension in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and Turkish Foreign Minister Mev Cavusoglu were due to talk in Brussels March 13 on the sidelines of a regular Syria donors conference.
Katrougalos said talks with Cavusoglu would focus on confidence building measures (CBMs) aimed at easing anxiety between the two Aegean neighbors, as well as Cyprus unity talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey insisted on keeping an army on the northern third it has unlawfully occupied since a 1974 invasion.
“The first goal is for tensions to subside, and this has to a large extent been achieved,” Katrougalos was quoted by the state-run Athens-Macedonian news agency as saying, although there’s been a roller-coaster ride of worries with Turkey continuing to violate Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships.
In February, Greece’s new Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis – former head of the Armed Forces – said he wants to cool down the simmering tensions and bring better relations.
In an interview with Kathimerini, he said a key is better communication with his counterpart, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, also a former military chief, and after they had already met to discuss how to ratchet down the anxieties built when Turkey kept sending fighter jets and warships to violate Greek airspace and waters.
Apostolakis said the aim was to implement the confidence-building measures agreed in 1988 by then Greek foreign minister Karolos Papoulias and Turkey’s Mesut Yilmaz they said are critical “to avert the creation of frequent unnecessary tensions that could lead to a possible accident with uncontrollable consequences,” Apostolakis said.
Despite that tender talk, Turkey has set a major air and sea military operation called Blue Motherland in the Aegean and Mediterranean, parts of which it claims. Apostolakis said that was just part of “regular training activities” and no cause for worry.
Before taking over as defense chief, Apostolakis had been aggressive toward Turkey as well, saying that Greece would “flatten” any rocky islet that Turkish forces land upon in the Aegean but wouldn’t amplify that now.