Ankara undermining hopes of dialogue

By Vassilis Nedos
Sep. 12, 2020

A day after the MED7 summit of southern European countries pledged its full support to Greece and Cyprus, to Turkey’s intense dismay, Ankara responded by essentially dashing any hopes of a dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean by setting a raft of preconditions which Athens deems unacceptable.

In a fresh indication that the chasm between the two countries doesn’t appear to be getting bridged any time soon, the representative of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Hami Aksoy, said that in order for a de-escalation to take place it is imperative that Greece withdraws all its military vessels that it has deployed near the Oruc Reis seismic research vessel, supports NATO’s conflict prevention initiative, halts the militarization of the islands of the East Aegean and Kastellorizo, and stops increasing pressure on the “Turkish” minority in Western Thrace.

He also decried the MED7 joint declaration on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Cyprus issue as “devoid of any legal basis, biased and unrealistic,” and denounced the European Union for its solidarity with Athens and Nicosia.

“Solidarity must be given to those who are right, if they are right. Solidarity should not be offered to those who are wrong. No solidarity should be offered to those who do not have a just position,” Aksoy said.

Notwithstanding some variations, the statements on Thursday of the MED7 leaders, not least those of French President Emmanuel Macron, made clear their full support for Greece.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be traveling to Cyprus on Saturday in a bid to broker a “peaceful” solution to tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, while calling on Turkey to withdraw its ships, the State Department has reported.

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The Germans “have done a good job” trying to get Greece and Turkey to “begin their conversations,” said Pompeo, adding that the US hopes that “the military assets that are there will be withdrawn so these conversations can take place.”

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will pay a two-day visit to Kastellorizo starting Saturday in order to attend the celebration of the 77th anniversary of the island’s liberation. The latest navtex issued by Turkey for research in the region expires on Saturday, and a new one is expected for research further north, closer to Kastellorizo.