Round Two: Greece-Turkey Exploratory Talks Will Pick Up Again


(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Michalis Karagiannis)

ATHENS - After a four-hour chat in Constantinople on Jan. 25, Greece and Turkey will resume a 61st round of exploratory talks in Athens, trying to resolve a dispute over boundaries in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

That will take place either the end of February or in March - when the European Union was due to take up Greece’s demand for sanctions over Turkish provocations - said Kathimerini.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the talks would pick up although the first round was informal, with no negotiations, no notes and no minutes taken and no report on what was discussed.

The two NATO allies have been at odds over a number of decades-old issues including the extent of their continental shelves, Turkish violations of Greek airspace and ethnically split Cyprus, noted a report by the Reuters news agency.

In 2002-2016, they held dozens of rounds of talks to try to lay the groundwork for full negotiations over the delimitation of maritime zones and resumed after a four-year delay, this time focused only on the seas boundaries.

Turkey has claimed areas around Greek islands, especially Kastellorizo, under a maritime deal with Libya no other country recognizes, Greece countering with an agreement with Egypt that led planned talks to initially break off.

"I expect within the next month, at some point, end of February, beginning of March. It's a good step in the right direction," he told Reuters about the timetable to talk again.

Turkey had insisted on putting on the agenda its demand that Greece remove troops from islands near Turkey’s coast but with fears of a conflict and Turkish military buildup, Greece was having none of that.

"Turkey needs to be consistent in terms of its behaviour, this cannot just be a decoy to avoid the discussion at the EU council in March," Mitsotakis also said.

Greece, which has recently reached other maritime deals with Italy to extend the boundary in the Ionian Sea from six to 12 miles, said it reserves the right to do the same in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, which Turkey said would be a cause for war.