ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed that a summit be held about the East Mediterranean, said Turkey's Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after the conclusion of his meeting with Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Ankara on Thursday.
The Turkish minister added that a difference in opinions concerning the Aegean does exist, but he underlined that "we believe all issues between us can be resolved by constructive dialogue."
Concerning standing issues between the two countries, Cavusoglu pointed out that the dialogue which began on Thursday must continue
An hour-long meeting between Greek Foreign Affairs Minister and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has concluded earlier at the Presidential Mansion in Ankara.
According to diplomatic sources, the meeting was requested by the Turkish side.
Also present was Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, with whom Dendias is meeting privately next, while broader deliberations between the delegations of the two sides will follow.
Both sides are expected to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues, particularly political and economic relations between the two countries, and international developments with an emphasis on EU-Turkey relations, Libya and Syria.
Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias meets with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara. (Photo by Eurokinissi)
They are also expected to discuss the Cyprus issue, ahead of the informal five-state conference in Geneva under the aegis of the United Nations.
The two ministers are expected to make joint statements to the press after the conclusion of their meeting.
Dendias' visit to Ankara will wrap up with a dinner hosted by Cavusoglu in his counterpart's honor.
The Greek FM is accompanied on his official visit to Turkey by Deputy FM responsible for economic diplomacy Kostas Fragogiannis.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias- with the waters boiling between them – headed to Turkey April 15 for a face-off with that country’s foreign chief Mevlut Cavusoglu – and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey is making claims to waters around Greek islands and in the Aegean and East Mediterranean where it plans to hunt for energy and has gotten the European Union and Greece to back down from demands for sanctions.
After Erdogan made the EU’s top leaders – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel come to him – humiliating her by making her stand – Greece sent Dendias to Ankara.
Turkey and Greece, for the first time in four years, have already had two informal, non-binding chit chats about their differences and this is the first time in two years a Greek Foreign Minister will go to Turkey.
There was no explanation from the Greek side why Cavusoglu wasn’t made to come to Athens to make Turkey’s case for what it claims are contested waters, the EU now essentially having stepped out of the fray.
While alternating between wanting diplomacy and talking tough, Turkey has intensified pressure on Greece ahead of the meetings, now saying that Greece is providing support to terrorists without offering proof.
Erdogan, his charm offensive having won over the EU, also now has gone back to saying he wants Turkey to join the bloc, after trying fruitlessly for 16 years to get in, but that he also won’t relent in plans to drill off Greek islands.
FM Dendias meeting Turkish president Erdogan. (Photo via Twitter)
Expectations for any progress or breakthrough are less than zero, with Turkey trying to further corner Greece now that the EU wants no part of the differences between the countries.
And while Greece wants to confine discussions to the dispute over the seas, Turkey is also expected to bring up its essentially-suspended 2016 refugee and migrant swap deal with the EU that has seen Greece and five of its islands packed with thousands of them, almost all wanting asylum.
It wasn’t said whether the talks will include Cyprus, where Turkey has drilling in Cypriot waters, snubbing its nose at soft EU sanctions and with Erdogan saying he won’t talk about reunifying the island where Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion.
Greece, Turkey and Cyprus’ former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom are due to take part later in April in Geneva, Switzerland in United Nations sponsored talks about the island dilemma as Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said they’ll only discuss two separate states there.
The Dendias visit is expected to try to pave the way for a meeting between Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis but it’s uncertain whether the Turkish leader will make the Greek leader come to him.
Accepting an invitation, Dendias said the talks would also seek common ground to resolve the “sole bilateral dispute” between the NATO allies. “In other words, the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean,” said Al Jazeera.
Turkey for now has pulled an energy research vessel and warship away from the Greek island of Kastellorizo, a tactic which got the EU not only to reject sanctions talk but send von der Leyen and Michel to Turkey to offer more money for containing refugees and migrants there.
Turkey has also accused the Greek Coast Guard of pushing back refugees and migrants in dinghies trying to reach Greek islands, which Greece has denied despite new evidence that includes GPS positions.
Turkey, however, isn’t facing any consequences for letting human traffickers keep sending refugees and migrants to Greek islands in violation of the suspended agreement.
“The differences between Turkey and Greece are intricate and intractable,” Eyup Ersoy, a faculty member at Ahi Evran University’s international relations department in Turkey told the news site.
“Therefore, under current conditions, an overall resolution of these differences is impractical. The prudent approach is to reach a mutually acceptable modus vivendi based on common interests,” he said.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Director of the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara office, said the talks though marked the start of normalization between the countries although the demands are one-sided.
“The best the two sides can agree on is de-escalation and nobody expects anything else,” he also said.
“Both countries have taken such maximalist positions that it will really be difficult to reconcile their positions but they can commit to de-escalation and continuing to talk and to not using the resources in the Mediterranean as an ongoing issue.”
Karol Wasilewski, head of the Middle East and Africa Programme at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said that, “Greece, in turn, partly due to EU’s support and in part thanks to Turkey’s regional isolation, thinks it enjoys an upper hand and thus is unwilling to back down from its demands.”
Turkey’s claims are partly based on an agreement with Libya dividing the seas between them, which no other country recognizes and both Turkey and Greece wooing Libya.