Turkish-Greek Aegean talks to continue despite row
Senior officials from Turkey and Greece will hold the 64th round of exploratory talks on Feb. 22 in Athens, a dialogue mechanism that has been running since the early 2000s, amid an ongoing quarrel over the latter’s continued efforts of the armament of the islands that must be kept demilitarized according to international law.
According to diplomatic sources, a delegation under the leadership of deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal will fly to Athens for the realization of the 64th exploratory meeting that seeks a compromised solution to the problems stemming from the Aegean Sea. The Greek team is led by retired Ambassador Pavlos Apostolidis.
The mechanism was resumed in early 2021 after a four-year break in a bid to defuse the tension between Turkey and Greece over overlapping continental shelf claims in the eastern Mediterranean throughout 2020.
However, despite efforts, tension continues between the two countries as Turkey blames Athens for continued provocations in the Aegean Sea and inflammatory rhetoric and actions. The latest of such moves came from Greek Deputy Defense Minister Nicholas Hardalias, who paid visits to the islands nearest to the Turkish coasts with demilitarized status.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in a strong reaction to the Greek moves, stressed the sovereignty of these islands could be challenged if Greece continues to violate 1923-dated Lausanne and 1947-dated Paris conventions which strictly ban the armament of certain islands close to Turkey.
Greece has complained about Çavuşoğlu’s statement by writing a letter to the U.N. Security Council, while an EU spokesman criticized the Turkish foreign minister’s statement. Greece has intensified its armament efforts in the past years and signed comprehensive security deals with France and other regional governments.
Turkish security sources slam the Greek deputy defense minister’s provocative visits to these islands, stressing this is neither a military genius nor a benefit for the Greek people. “As two allied neighbors, we have multiple dialogue tools such as exploratory talks, confidence-building measures and NATO-deconfliction mechanism. We want to resolve the problems through these mechanisms. Our wish is that Turkish and Greek nations live in confidence, welfare and peace by fairly benefiting from the regional richness and that the Aegean Sea becomes a friendship sea between Turkey and Greece,” sources said.