ATHENS — Senior diplomats from Greece and Turkey met in Athens on Tuesday in an effort to ease long-standing tensions between the two NATO members over disputed sea boundaries and related mineral rights.
The exploratory talks, which lasted for four hours at a hotel next to parliament, are aimed at leading to more formal negotiations following a five-year pause.
As usual, the two delegations will inform their leadership of the discussion.
The EU is currently preparing an evaluation report on its relationship with Turkey. European officials say there have been signs of improvement in recent weeks. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who was not present at the talks Tuesday, said he hoped an improvement in ties would allow for him to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Melvut Cavusolglu.
But in Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out making any concessions to Greece concerning its rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Turkey’s determination continues unchanged,” he told journalists during a news conference. “In other words, there can be no question of us making any concessions.”
A 61st session, the first in four years, was held Jan. 25 in Constantinople but was only an informal four-hour chit-chat with no minutes, no record and designed not to do anything beyond that.
The talks picked up again ahead of a scheduled European Union meeting toward the end of March where the bloc’s leaders are expected again to defer to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and set aside Greece’s demands for sanctions even if the two sides don’t come to terms.
Turkey wants to hunt for energy off Greek islands under a maritime deal with Libya that no other country recognizes, which led Greece to counter with a similar agreement with Egypt.
That led to Erdogan calling off talks and repeatedly sending an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo – shadowed by the Greek Navy – only to pull them out again to avoid penalties.
The Greek delegation, said Kathimerini, was Ambassador (ad hon.) Pavlos Apostolidis and Ambassador Alexandros Kougiou, as well as Ifigenia Kanara, Director of the General-Secretary’s Office of the Foreign Ministry.
The Turkish side is made up of Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sedat Onal, Director General for Bilateral Political & Maritime-Aviation-Border Affairs Cagatay Erciyes and Maritime Aviation Border Deputy General Manager Baris Kalkavan.
Ibrahim Kalin, the chief advisor to Erdogan, wasn’t expected to be there also he was at the session in Constantinople. Onal was due to meet on March 17 with Greek Foreign Ministry Secretary General Themistoklis Demiris.
Turkey is also reportedly eager to schedule a meeting between its foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, the newspaper said, as Turkey has alternately sought diplomacy and ramped up aggressive talk against Greece.
Turkey also has wanted to expand the talks beyond the competing claims to rights in the Aegean and East Mediterranean to demands that Greece take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast but that’s been rejected so far.