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Politics

Mitsotakis, Erdogan Gird for NATO Meeting Tête-à-Tête Time

What happens in Brussels between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as they meet at a NATO session might stay in Brussels because it's going to be a private affair.

With tensions undiminished despite recent talks aimed at lowering the volume in disputes over the seas and other issues, they are due to talk June 14 on the sidelines of the defense alliance meeting.

They may have only a top aide nearby, said Kathimerini, with no indication yet whether what's discussed will be made public or, if so, put in diplomatic terms so as not to raise the temperature again.

The setting, the paper said citing officials preparing for the showdown, is designed to give the two leaders a way to talk frankly as Greece said it would renew calls for sanctions if Turkey keeps up provocations and claims to waters around Greek islands for planned energy hunts.

When they met twice before, in September and December 2019, they each had an entourage, resulting in back-and-forth monologues that brought no real progress, the report added.

Despite the new design, Mitsotakis is said to not expect any results from the usually obstinate Erdogan – due to meet US President Joe Biden too – and who has said he will proceed with orders for oil and gas drilling in the Aegean and East Mediterranean at any rate.

The goal instead is to prevent a flareup of the type that over the past two years has occasionally brought the countries to loggerheads and almost a conflict, with warships circling each other.

The Greek side, the report said, believes Erdogan agreed to the meeting to smooth over troubles with the European Union although the bloc has shown itself unwilling to consider sanctions that Greece has demanded at times.

Erdogan could use the occasion to also push for an agenda of insisting Greece give more rights to a Muslim minority he wants called Turkish because they're Turkish, and for them to be able to appoint their own religious leaders.

Erdogan also has support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and is also a major arms supplier to Turkey.

Germany also excluded Greece from the Berlin Conference schedule for June 23 to discuss Libya, which made a deal with Turkey dividing the seas between them and leading to claims around Greek islands.

An EU meeting will follow on June 24-25 but the bloc's leaders are expected to again shy away from upsetting Erdogan who has threatened to unleash more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey on the bloc through Greece and its islands if pushed.

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