After 18 months, Greek, Turkish Foreign Ministries Talking Again

Αssociated press

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and his Greek counterpart Giorgos Katrougalos speak to the media after their talks in the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya, Turkey, Thursday, March 21, 2019 (Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool, FILE)

ATHEN - With tensions remaining high over the Aegean, envoys from Greece’s and Turkey’s foreign ministries met here formally for the first time in 18 months to talk about ways to de-escalate anxieties provoked by constant violations of Greek airspace and waters.

In a brief statement issued, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the two sides – led General Secretary Dimitris Paraskevopoulos and Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal – talked about each other’s claims in the Aegean and collapsed Cyprus unity talks and ways to improve relations, said Kathimerini.

That didn’t include any chance of bringing back measures agreed in 1988 designed to bring the two sides closer together with no explanation why not, and no date had been set either for talks between the defense chiefs.

Earlier in April, with Turkey wanting to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets as pilots from both countries engage in mock dogfights, Greece reportedly was mulling buying the new jets too after saying it wanted to upgrade its aging fleet of American F-16 fighters.

Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis, a former Naval commander who headed the country’s Armed Forces, said the F-35 purchases could be on the table, said Kathimerini, without explaining from where the money would come as they cost up to $89 million each.

“Beyond the upgrade of the F-16 fighter jets, we are in the process of selecting a new plane for Greece, so we can gradually move to the new generation of aircraft,” he told journalists during a visit to Andravida Air Base, western Peloponnese.

“The statement by the US Congress helps in this perspective. We will examine it, all the elements, and see what will happen,” he added.

Locked in a dispute with Turkey, which wants to buy US-made F-35’s as well as a Russian missile defense system, the United States was reportedly mulling letting Greece as well as Romania and Poland – buy the fighter jets, a move that could escalate tension with Moscow as well.