Ankara.- (Reuters, ANA, GreekNewsOnline)
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias clashed with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday at a joint news conference in Ankara that began with hopes of improved relations but quickly descended into acrimonious accusations from both sides.
Seeking to ease months of tensions over territorial disputes in the Mediterranean, Dendias expressed support for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union but said any violations of Greece’s sovereignty would be sanctioned.
His comments prompted an angry response from Cavusoglu who described them as “unacceptable”, prompting Dendias to say he was surprised Cavusoglu had not expected him to act as if nothing had happened in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.
Prior to the meeting of the two foreign ministers, Foreign Minister Dendias was received at the Presidential Palace by President Tayyip Erdogan. According to Cavusoglu, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed that a summit be held about the East Mediterranean. The Turkish minister added that a difference in opinions concerning the Aegean does exist, but he underlined that “we believe all issues between us can be resolved by constructive dialogue.”
Concerning standing issues between the two countries, Cavusoglu pointed out that the dialogue which began on Thursday must continue
Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias said talks in Ankara were “extensive, open and sincere,” speaking after meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.
The Greek minister welcomed the restart of exploratory talks and political consultations with Turkey, and he underlined that several regional and bilateral issues were discussed at the meeting with Cavusoglu, including a series of proposals towards reviving initiatives for the economic collaboration between the two countries.
The meeting also provided “a positive agenda of economic issues to promote our relations further,” and to “change the climate that exists in Greek-Turkish relations.”
Dendias did however underline that “a necessary prerequisite to this is de-escalation and refraining from actions and statements that undermine the climate.”
Greece, he underlined, “supports Turkey’s EU accession process, if it so wishes,” but respect of EU principles and values is an inviolable condition for it.
Concerning the five-sided summit on the Cyprus issue, under the aegis of the UN, he said all sides concerned will join with a “constructive spirit in mind.” The only acceptable solution to the Cyprus issue, he added, is “the one supported by all international actors: a bizonal, bicommunal federation.”
The minister pointed out that he found himself in agreement with his Turkish counterpart that migration is an “EU-Turkish issue”. Turkey, however, should meet its commitments as inscribed in its joint statement with the EU on migration, he noted. Furthermore, Dendias reminded his counterpart of what he said was the “instrumentalization of the migration issue” at the Greek-Turkish borders in Evros in 2020.
Additionally, reversing its decision to turn the Hagia Sophia historic monument to a mosque “would be beneficial to Turkey and its international image.”
“Greece and Turkey are destined to coexist in a region with many complex problems,” said Dendias. It is, therefore, to the benefit of both countries “that we cooperate within the framework of good neighborliness for security, prosperity and peace.”
“We are not ignoring reality; we know we have a long way ahead of us, but we can take that first step today,” he concluded.
Issues between Greece and Turkey “can be resolved by constructive dialogue,” Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, at statements following his meeting in Ankara with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.
Welcoming the restart of exploratory talks and political consultations, he added that “fait accomplis and provocative statements can be avoided.” He said the two discussed all bilateral issues related to the Aegean and the East Mediterranean and acknowledged that Greece and Turkey held differences of opinion. He also highlighted the proposal earlier in the day by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a summit on the East Mediterranean.
On the informal five-sided meeting on the Cyprus issue in Geneva, he said that “all sides must join in the most positive and constructive manner.”
Referring to Greek-Turkish trade and economic relations, he said that as neighbors both should continue and expand them, something being worked on. He also highlighted the importance of the restart last month of flights between the two countries that had been suspended due to the pandemic.
Cavusoglu called for “continuing the counterterrorism fight against organizations like FETO and PKK,” and said managing illegal migration must be done in a “spirit of cooperation, not antagonism.”
The Turkish FM also noted the two ministers discussed what he called “the Turkish minority living in Thrace”, adding that “from the very start, we introduced best practices for the Greek minority living here.” Both minorities he noted should continue living in either country in a way that leads them to prosperity and peace. FM Dendias responded that in Greece there is a Muslim minority, which is what the Lausanne Treaty recognizes and what the Greek state believes.
Turkey is “prepared to offer any support to protect the cultural heritage of Ottoman monuments in Greece, the same is true for the Greek and Christian monuments in Turkey,” Cavusoglu said, while noting that “on this issue we can have mutual support and cooperation.”
Commenting on the meetings on Thursday, he said, “In the near term, we believe that visits between countries, talks without terms and conditions and visits to one another of our state leaders will provide a very productive foundation for the expansion and development of our contacts.”
In terms of improving Greek-Turkish relations and resolving disagreements, the Turkish minister said, addressing Dendias, “we believe we must continue the dialogue you began today with your visit,” while he added that both have known each other since 2003 at the Council of Europe and retained a friendship.
In ex agenda comments after the statements by Dendias, and in response to his counterpart’s expressed Greek stance, Cavusoglu said he could not accept that Turkey is violating Greece’s rights in the Aegean, while he also claimed that the Muslim minority in Thrace declares itself as being “of Turkish origin”. He also added that what the European Commission says about the issue of the Aegean and maritime zones is not related to International Law and to the International Court at The Hague.