Turkish President Erdogan refused to rule out a personal meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis when speaking with reporters on Friday after he attended prayers.
“In all our talks (with European leaders), we have always had a positive approach on the issue of meeting with Mr Mitsotakis,” the Turkish leader said, less than two weeks before talks are scheduled to begin between the two countries in Ankara.
“There have been meetings between foreign ministers. We have said that exploratory contacts can begin and that (Greek and Turkish) delegations can meet. We have also said that we can hold a meeting with the prime minister, that we can take steps in that direction. Developments are moving in that direction,” Erdogan explained in his Friday remarks to the press.
Greece’s position is that the January 25 talks between Greece and Turkey should deal with the establishment of definitive maritime boundaries only, and not veer off into other areas which Turkey believes must be explored.
Military delegations to meet for “Technical talks” Week of January 18
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, citing security sources, also said on Friday that military delegations from the two countries are expected to resume their “technical talks” next week at NATO’s headquarters.
The news agency said that these talks between Turkish and Greek delegations were agreed upon after a meeting between the Turkish leader and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
January 25 Ankara talks looming
The two sides were already preparing for recommencing formal negotiations in Ankara on January 25, after a a five-year hiatus.
The exploratory talks between the neighboring countries will take place in Istanbul, as respective foreign ministers Nikos Dendias and Mevlüt Cavusoglu are meeting today, Wednesday, with EU officials to inform them about the agenda.
The United States welcomed the exploratory talks related to maritime zone delimitation, the US State Department said on Tuesday.
A State Department spokesperson said that the US supports all efforts to reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the talks could contribute to that effort.
However, the resumption of the dialogue begins with a big question mark — the different starting points of the two sides in regard to what is to be discussed.
Differences from the start
Athens will sit at the negotiating table to discuss a single issue, which is the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has made clear.
Ankara, on the other hand, wishes to bring several issues to the table, such as the continental shelf, demilitarization of Greek islands, gray zones and airspace in the Aegean, and exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Ankara wants to discuss several issues that involve not only the Aegean but the wider Eastern Mediterranean area.
In the Aegean, Turkey wants to discuss issues relating to the continental shelf, territorial waters, airspace, demilitarization of islands and islets, air traffic centers (FIR), and jurisdictions of operations.
As for the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus, Ankara wants to bring up the continental shelf and EEZ, in the context of a “fair solution” for the protection of the rights of Turkish-Cypriots in the occupied part of the island.
Greece had made it clear from the start that issues such as continental shelves and territorial waters are not up for discussion because they have already been decided by the Treaty of Lausanne.
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