Exploratory contacts with a deadline


TAGS: Diplomacy, Defense, Security, Turkey

In the wake of last month’s dangerous escalation of tension between Greece and Turkey, the two countries have laid the groundwork for exploratory contacts on the terms and conditions of a possible resumption of a dialogue, with Berlin having played a pivotal role in the rapprochement. 

In contrast to 2016, when similar exploratory contacts were launched, this time around the two sides have a deadline, the end of August, to reach common ground. 

The Greek government has repeatedly stated that the only issues under discussion in a dialogue must be the continental shelf and maritime zones. Turkey has insisted that this dialogue should include a much wider range of issues.

The head of the diplomatic office of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Eleni Sourani, and the adviser of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, reportedly have an open line of communication following Turkey’s suspension of planned operations in areas of the Greek continental shelf which Ankara considers disputed territory.

According to sources, Sourani and Kalin had been on the brink of signing a joint statement regarding the framework of a dialogue between the two countries after their meeting in Berlin with a representative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in early July, before the crisis over Turkey’s planned seismic survey off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

However, the statement was not issued as Ankara disagreed with Athens’ demand for a wide-reaching moratorium on actions that included an end to Turkish transgressions such as violations of Greek airspace.

In Mitsotakis’ meetings with party leaders, it became evident that despite the general consensus for the need to stand firm against Turkish aggression there are diverging views on the way forward.

The main leftist opposition SYRIZA and center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) have said they will back the resumption of talks only on the condition that they will be limited to the issue of maritime zones. 

Meanwhile, there is speculation about why an agreement between Athens and Paris for the purchase by Greece of two French Belh@rra frigates as part of a broader mutual defense cooperation fell through last month. It remains unclear why the deal did not proceed, but, according to sources, French officials believe the reasons were not purely financial.