The Greek/Turkish diplomatic parleys which had been expected to begin this month appear to be on hold as no invitation has been received at this point from Turkey, according to a statement released by the Greek Foreign Ministry on Monday.
“So far, the Greek Foreign Ministry has not received any invitation from the Turkish Foreign Ministry regarding the setting of a date for the 61st round of the Investigative Contacts,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou said in response to a reporter’s question today.
However, earlier in the day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu said in a statement that Turkey was calling on Greece to restart its investigations within the month of January.
It is recalled that the last round of talks between the two countries, who are frequently at odds, took place in 2016 in Athens.
“Willing to respond”
“Greece, as it is known, has expressed its willingness to respond, in case of a relevant invitation of the Turkish side, to the basis of International Law with the object of delimiting the EEZ and the continental shelf,” Papaioannou stated.
During a previously-scheduled meeting with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated that the talks are only “for the only issue we are facing. , and which is nothing more than the definition of maritime zones in the Aegean.”
Mitsotakis referred briefly to the statements made by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Cavusoglu, confirming that Greece had not received any invitation yet from Turkey to start the exploratory contacts.
In response to a question posed by the press, the Prime Minister said that Greece will enter into exploratory contacts with Turkey when the date for such is finalized, following the directions given by the European Council itself, “which are nothing more than starting from where we left off in March 2016, to make progress on the issue of defining the maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.”
Mitsotakis said that the procedure is simple. The general secretaries of the two foreign ministers must agree that the talks will take place, then the date will be set.
“Time to find a date”
“This has not happened. But I hold on to the fact that Turkey expresses its will to start the process,” the PM said.
“It’s time to stop playing groomsmen, find a date and start contacts,” he added. “It will be a positive first step. The European Council has emphasized that this policy requires consistency and continuity, and I think that is what will be decided by Mr. Borrell’s report to be presented to us in March.”
Greece and Turkey had an unending string of tension-filled moments during 2020, with the Turkish oil and gas exploratory vessel the Oruc Reis coming onto waters atop Greece’s continental shelves, sparking an international outcry and at one point resulting in the collision of a Greek Coast Guard boat and a vessel from the Turkish Navy.
The importance of resuming the parleys has been emphasized by many officials, including European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano.
However, Stano said in response to media questioning during the Commission’s briefing earlier today that the EU has not received formal notification of the resumption of the talks. The body is still expecting the notification, he stated, because any “irritants” in the relationship between any EU member state and the nation of Turkey are considered to be “irritants for the whole of the EU.”
Any attempt to de-escalation the historically-high tensions between the two countries and to normalize relations between them, Stano added, are “very important parts” of the evolution of the relationship between the EU and Turkey.
Stano also confirmed to the press that Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, will make an official visit to Brussels on January 21 in order to meet with the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
While Turkey has longed after membership in the EU, Stano says that the EU seeks a “constructive approach” to Turkey.
The Saturday teleconference, which took place between Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Borrell and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was, according to Stano, in an effort to give a message regarding the de-escalation of tensions, which may in the future make more constructive cooperation possible.
EU Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer stated as part of the briefing that the Commission does not share the view — which has been openly expressed by Erdogan — that EU-Turkish relations are being undermined by what he called “the whims of certain member-states.”
Mamer maintained that the Commission’s position on the matter, was already fully expressed by the conclusions which came out of the December meeting of the EU Council.