Greece said on Sunday that a solution with Turkey over territorial disputes in the Mediterranean and other issues “is difficult, but not impossible.”
In an interview with Greek Sunday Kathimerini, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias acknowledged that the two NATO allies have different views.
“It is not possible to hide under the rug issues where we have different views and approaches,” he said referring to the public spat he had with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday in Ankara.
However, he points out that the meeting, despite the clash in public view, can be the first chapter of a gradual improvement of Greece’s relations with Turkey.
Dendias told the paper that while the climate during the talks was good, there was no convergence on many issues.
“The issue we face with Turkey is that there is no common denominator regarding the framework of resolving our differences,” Dendias told the paper.
He said Greece’s view is that demarcating its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf with Turkey in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean must be based on international law.
“I don’t see a toughening of Turkey’s stance on the issues concerning the Aegean and the east Mediterranean. But I do see fixed positions that are beyond international law, which makes resolution prospects difficult but not impossible,” he said.
Dendias said he has invited Cavusoglou to Athens to continue talks and this could help to prepare the ground for a meeting of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Open clash between Greece and Turkey at press conference
The two ministers clashed openly at a joint news conference over a number of issues.
The visit of Dendias to the Turkish capital, the first by a Greek foreign minister to Ankara since 2015, began with hopes of improved relations.
However, it quickly descended into acrimonious accusations from both sides.
Dendias blasted Turkey on its threats to go to war if Greece extends its territorial waters in the Aegean, which is in accordance with international law.
In addition, he said that the Turkish-Libya maritime agreement of 2019 is illegal and he accused Turkey of using migrants as a weapon against Greece and Europe.
Dendias also spoke openly of the “constant” Turkish violations of Greek airspace that have occurred repeatedly over the past year and a half, and brought up the Law of the Sea, warning his counterpart that his country’s actions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean are putting at risk Turkey’s aspirations of joining the EU.
“If this is what Turkey wants – and I certainly hope that it does – then it must start respecting the Law of the Sea,” Dendias declared, mentioning the ever-present threat that additional sanctions on Turkey might still be forthcoming.
Turkey must act in accordance with international law
Continuing the unusually blunt interchange, the Turkish Foreign Minister was likewise frank in his comments, admitting that “differences remain” between Turkey and Greece over uses involving the Aegean and gas and oil exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
For his part, he retorted that Turkey’s seismic surveys in its searches for energy resources were “entirely legal.”
The two countries are NATO allies but at odds over many issues, including competing claims over the extent of their continental shelves in the Mediterranean, air space, energy resources and ethnically split Cyprus.