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Turkey Says Dendias to Visit Ankara on April 14

Αssociated Press

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, left, meets with Turkey s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, on the sidelines of a conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool)

ANKARA — Turkey's foreign minister says his Greek counterpart is set to visit Turkey for talks next month following a meeting of senior diplomats to ease long-standing tensions between the two NATO allies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias would be visiting Ankara on April 14. He said they would discuss a possible meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The announcement came after senior Turkish and Greek diplomats held exploratory talks in Athens - part of a series of such meetings designed to build trust between the neighboring countries. 

A Greek Foreign Ministry official said Dendias had accepted Cavusoglu's invitation to visit Turkey provided the "right conditions" prevail.

Yesterday, for the 62nd time with no progress, Greek and Turkish officials sat down again for so-called exploratory talks, this time focused on competing claims to the seas but there were no reports of what they actually discussed.

The meeting this time was in the Greek capital after the two sides had a four-hour chit chat in Constantinople on Jan. 25 which was an informal affair, with no notes, no minutes of the meeting and designed to be just that.

Turkey has for now suspended its plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands where it’s claiming waters under a maritime deal with Libya that no other country recognizes, which led Greece to make an agreement with Egypt.

While Turkey wants the talks expanded to discuss its demand for Greece to take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government is having none of that for now.

This round, also four hours, brought together veteran teams of high-level officials and diplomats who are doing what is essentially technical work to set the path for their country’s Foreign Ministers to go face-to-face.

It came days before the European Union was for a third time since October of 2020 to take up Greece’s demand for sanctions against Turkey if there’s no moving toward an agreement between the two sides.

But the EU, reluctant to confront Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan in fear he will flood the bloc with more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in theirs, has already indicated he will likely get a pass again even if the Greek-Turkish talks fail.

The newspaper, which usually has key inside diplomatic sources leaking information, this time had little to report, saying the secret meeting didn’t reveal any details to produce anything newsworthy .

They talked about what was on the agenda: sovereignty of the seas and their maritime zone limits although the paper said Turkey would likely try to put other issues on the table too.

That would, besides demilitarization of Greek islands, also include talking about Turkey’s demand for more rights for a Muslim minority in the Greek province of Thrace and Greece’s harboring – and refusing to extradite – supporters of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan said was behind a failed July 2016 coup attempt against him.

Turkey’s drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft EU sanctions could also come up because Turkey’s delegation included its experts on that problem, ahead of a United Nations sponsored meeting.

For all that lack of information, the paper said the Turkish side reportedly was satisfied just to talk and open lines of communication to try to ratchet down tension that brought fears of a conflict from time to time.

No timetable has been set for a 63d meeting with the exploration of talking talks going on for years, expected to stay that way.