Greek leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, stating after the videoconference discussion that they agreed the ball is in Turkey’s court and it is that nation which must take the first steps in reducing the current tensions in the area.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders said that they had agreed that, in accordance with the October 2 European Council resolutions, “Turkey has to undertake the necessary steps to reduce the tensions” in the East Mediterranean and to engage in constructive dialogue with Greece, Cyprus and the EU.”
The statement of purpose comes at another time of severely-heightened tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, after Turkey’s declaration this week that they would reopen the beach town of Varosha in occupied northern Cyprus.
The meeting of the Greek premier and the EU leader was seen as particularly timely “especially in light of the latest disturbing developments related to Varosha,” according to the statement. The issue will be on the table again at the EU Council’s next Summit, on October 15-16.
Von der Leyen and PM Mitsotakis also spoke together regarding the new migration plan put forth by the EU. The Greek premier for his part stated that any agreement must “adequately address the pressures imposed on front-line states.”
The two leaders also stated that they had “agreed that Europe needs a predictable, fair and resilient migration management system, with the right balance between responsibility sharing and solidarity, and fully protecting European values and fundamental rights including the right to asylum.”
PM Mitsotakis and von der Leyen also said that they had reinforced their mutual resolve to support the Commission’s task force on Migration, which is working toward a pilot project for the better management of migration and asylum processes. Items the task force would like to make reality include new migrant facilities on the Greek island of Lesvos, where thousands of migrants and refugees are living while waiting out the long asylum process.
Any new plan, the leaders agreed, must include “right balance between sharing responsibility and solidarity and fully protecting European values and fundamental rights, such as the right to asylum.”
While the two leaders were speaking together on Thursday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of the GLOBSEC 2020 Forum in Bratislava, diplomatic sources said.
Dendias conveyed Greece’s reaction to the reopening of the Varosha beachfront in Famagusta to his Turkish counterpart and the two ministers also agreed that a date should be given for the start of exploratory talks, the same sources said.