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Ahead of Talks with Greece, Turkey Talks War Too

Αssociated Press

Turkey s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a joint statement with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell prior to their meeting in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP)

ATHENS -- As Greek and Turkish officials are due to talk - in Ankara, not Athens - over disputed claims to the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Turkey warned it would be a cause for war if Greece extends its seas limits to 12 miles.

That shot came from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as Turkey has alternated between claiming to want a peaceful settlement and reminding it will send an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo again.

While Greece said the talks are talks, not negotiations, and designed to pave the way for actual binding discussions at some points, the session of so-called exploratory talks is the 61st, and the first in four years.

Speaking to Turkish journalists at the end of his two-day visit to Brussels, Cavusoglu said that “Turkey’s position on the issue of the Aegean has not changed,” about bringing a conflict over sea limits.

That referred to the 1995 declaration by the Turkish House that if Greece extends its territorial water to12 nautical miles, as it reserves the right to do so under international law, this would constitute a casus belli or cause for war.

That coincided with the European Union pulling back on prospects for further sanctions for Turkish drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, as did in December, 2019 when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wanted penalties brought.

Turkey appears to have won over some EU countries who are pulling away from supporting fellow member Greece in favor of Turkey, said Kathimerini, 

“We have seen a significant change of attitude on the part of Turkey, regarding Greece, Cyprus and other issues,” a European diplomat not identified told Kathimerini.

“Such changes have taken place in the past and have proven to be temporary, but this time it looks like something more substantial,” the diplomat added, with the EU scheduled to take up sanctions again in March if Greece and Turkey don’t reach a settlement.

“Therefore there will be no decision on sanctions … now is not the time to speed up this process,” the diplomat added, but the shift in attitude in Turkey’s favor putting Greece in a tight spot for now.