ATHENS – In a break from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s belligerence, Turkey’s Ambassador to Greece Burak Özügergin said differences between the countries should be settled with reason.
Talking to reporters, Özügergin said: “I can guarantee you that we will never run out of differences or disagreements between the two sides of the Aegean. But it seems to me that we should agree to handle our differences better,” Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah said.
“We must constantly repeat to ourselves that not every disagreement should create enemies,” he added, in contrast to Erdogan, no indication why he was speaking at odds with the President.
Referring to recent public opinion polls, which showed that the people of Greece and Türkiye do not harbor hostile feelings toward each other, Özügergin said: “I guess that’s a good start! It just goes to show that you really shouldn’t believe what you read in the papers,” without saying whether that includes anything he said as well.
That came as there was a reception at the embassy to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the declaration of a Turkish Republic after the defeat of Greek forces in a war which ended the millennia-long Greek presence in Anatolia.
It was attended by Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Fragogiannis, main opposition SYRIZA party deputy Kostas Zachariadis, diplomats, and academics – no explanation why.
Having completed his four-year tenure in Greece, Özügergin will soon be succeeded by another career diplomat Çağatay Erciyes, who will take over as Erdogan persists in demanding Greece take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and has been raising tensions over other issues.
Fragkogiannis said Greece wants a restart on dialogue, said Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah, although Erdogan refuses to talk to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Fragkogiannis told To Vima that the two sides were able to at least discuss differences when Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Athens even though there hasn’t been any real progress.
Fragkogiannis added that the positive agenda succeeded in creating a communication channel between the politicians and businesspeople of the two countries although 62 Confidence Building Talks over the years failed to bring any confidence and have been suspended.
Following his visit to Athens in 2021, Çavuşoğlu said he discussed relations comprehensively with Mitsotakis and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, but Erdogan has ended communications.
“We have now started to work on concrete projects focused on action and cooperation. We have reached a consensus in principle on 25 items,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters at the time.
He also said that Turkish and Greek institutions would come together in the near future to discuss cooperation in transportation, energy, tourism, trade, the environment, and many other fields – but nothing of any consequence happened on the flash points.
Those include Turkey’s demands that Greece remove troops from Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and Turkey challenging the sovereignty of Greek islands and waters and Erdogan even threatening an invasion during the night.
Stressing that the positive agenda between Turkey and Greece is an initiative based on economic diplomacy, Fragkogiannis said: “I can say that it is considered successful even in the current conditions,” without explaining what it is.
Despite the suspension of the next round of talks, the initiative has not been canceled, Fragkogiannis said, adding: “On the contrary, if there is an improvement in the overall climate, we want to activate these channels again.”