Turkey’s Defense Chief Pulls Back, Wants Diplomacy with Greece

ANKARA – Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, changing his tactics from belligerent talk, said he now thinks that disputes over the seas and other issues with Greece can be settled with negotiation, which has failed for years.

He told CNN Turk in an interview that Turkey – which said it would be a cause for war if Greece extends its seas boundaries from 6 to 12 miles and cuts off Turkey’s coast – has always been in favor of discussion, although it hasn’t.

He also said Turkey wants international law to be applied although it doesn’t accept the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between them, and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants return of some islands given Greece.

Curiously, while he has often been combative in statements and as Turkey said it has a Blue Homeland doctrine claiming parts of Greek seas, he said that officials in both countries should stop talking tough or making statements through the media, which he usually does.

He cited a recent meeting between Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Istanbul in which they agreed to ratchet down tensions before Turkey almost immediately sent fighter jets into Greek airspace.

“We’ve seen how effective and successful the meeting was, and we expect the continuation of this. As always, we want peace, serenity and stability and we continue to hold discussions with our counterparts in this regard,” Akar said.

Referring to the earlier meetings between defense ministers aimed at boosting confidence between the two countries, Akar said a group of 10-15 experts from both sides carried out work in both countries and will talk again soon.

He didn’t mention that some 65 rounds of exploratory talks have failed and that the low-level discussions haven’t led to any reported progress in settling differences between the countries.

He also pointed out that both belong to NATO but didn’t mention that Turkey is buying S-400 missile defense systems from its ideological enemy, Russia, which could undermine the pact’s security and be used against Greece.

They are also at odds over Turkey’s occupation of the northern third of Cyprus since 1974, with Turkey drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters and planning to do the same off Greek islands.

The tension at times had threatened to bring the close to a conflict, accidental or otherwise but this is the time of the year when they traditionally pull back so as not to affect summer tourism, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.



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