Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, Reuters, AMNA)
Greece is coming to exploratory talks with Turkey in good faith, with a constructive spirit, and without being provocative, underlined Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in an interview with Efimerida Ton Syntakton on Saturday.
There are, however, some issues which “are not up for discussion”, such as those concerning “national sovereignty and the demilitarization of Greek islands.”
The neighbouring countries held 60 rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016, but plans last year for discussions to be resumed foundered over a survey vessel sent by Ankara into disputed waters and disagreements over the topics to be covered.
Five years have passed since the last round of exploratory talks with Turkey, “which were actually stopped at Turkey’s fault in March 2016”, Dendias noted.
In any case, continued the minister, exploratory talks “are not negotiations, they are informal, there are no minutes taken during the meetings, and neither side has to assume responsibilities or make commitments.”
Potential future negotiations with Turkey will have to focus on the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the continental shelf in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, on the basis of International Law, stressed Dendias.
“If there is no agreement during any such negotiations that may follow the exploratory talks, the two sides will then have to agree on a joint text to be submitted to the International Court of Justice at The Hague”, he underlined.
“We hope that the exploratory talks will lead to a de-escalation of tensions,” he added, and that “the Turkish side will come along to these talks in a likeminded spirit.”
Turkey and the EU agreed on working on a roadmap for enhancing relations, the Turkish foreign minister said Friday.
Speaking to journalists in Brussels after his two-day working visit, Mevlut Cavusoglu said “2020 was a problematic year” for relations between Turkey and the EU but a more positive dialogue has developed since the EU leaders’ meeting in December.
“We interpreted the joint statement of the December meeting as a hand extended towards Turkey and we reciprocate it in a positive way,” said Cavusoglu.
Turkey is always ready to improve its relations with any party or institution extending a positive hand, he said, adding that Turkey fulfills its promises.
“But in relations, of course, one side’s wish or dedication is not enough, and the EU should also be dedicated. And I’d like to say that in my talks with all my counterparts, I’ve witnessed a very positive approach and a will to improve our relations,” he stressed.
The presidents of the European Council and Commission will visit Turkey upon Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation for talks on Turkey-EU relations, Cavusoglu noted.
He said the migration pact between Turkey and the EU will hit its fifth anniversary in March but there are still parts of the agreement that the EU has not fulfilled its commitments.
Visa liberalization and modernization of Turkey’s 1995 Customs Union with the EU were part of this agreement and “unfortunately no steps have been taken in this regard,” said Cavusoglu.
“There were 72 criteria for the visa liberalization and up until last year we were able to fulfill 66 of them. So, only six were left outstanding, and before coming here we looked into the situation again with some colleagues, and only four are left for the time being,” said Cavusoglu.
“I think it was because of the impact of certain EU countries which did not want to establish visa liberalization” that “it did not happen so far”.
“But we’ve taken all necessary steps and will continue to do so,” he added.
Cavusoglu noted that Turkey’s EU membership process should also be kept alive, adding that Ankara is always ready to take steps to fulfill opening and closing criteria of the negotiation chapters.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Alexandros Papaioannou on Thursday outlined the nature and content of the upcoming exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, during a press briefing held three days before the start of the 61st round of talks in Istanbul.
“They are not negotiations, they are talks, there are no obligations or agreements between the two sides and there are no minutes. There is no briefing on the content of the talks,” he clarified.
The spokesperson also made it clear that there will be no discussion on the demilitarisation of the islands during the exploratory talks, nor any negotiation of matters that impinge upon Greece’s national sovereignty, while underlining that Greece’s position is based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Papaioannou emphasised that the talks are unofficial, confidential and non-binding, and are held in order to sound out possible areas of convergence for the purposes of any future negotiations on delineating the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, always in accordance with international law. If there is no agreement in possible negotiations that may follow the exploratory talks, he noted, both sides must agree on an arbitration agreement that will be submitted to The Hague.
In this context, he expressed Athens’ view that if the talks are held in good faith, this can lead to a de-escalation of tension, adding that Greece is going to the 61st round in good faith and in a spirit of cooperation.
Turkey’s defense chief on Saturday expressed hope that lawful solutions to bilateral issues will be found during talks with Greece starting in Istanbul next week.
“In talks with Greece, we hope that issues will be dealt with within the framework of rights, law, and equity, and that solutions are found,” National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said at launch and welding ceremonies for new Turkish-built ships.
Akar further underlined Turkey’s expectation that Greece “respects [Turkey’s] rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean and avoids actions that may cause misunderstandings.”
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has called on Turkey to maintain de-escalation in Eastern Mediterranean and produce tangible results on the ground in relation to the Turkey`s attitude change towards the EU.
According to an EU official who briefed the press, the President welcomed current positive dialogue and stressed the importance to sustainably de-escalate tensions in eastern Mediterranean. In that respect he called on the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to refrain from activities that might fuel tensions.
We look forward to progress in the exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece and to the resumption of Cyprus settlement process, the EU official noted. The EC President told FM Cavusoglu that the members of the European Council will again address EU-Turkey relations during the March European Council and repeated the wish to have a constructive relationship with Turkey, adding that they need to see tangible results on the ground.
The President will remain in contact with all parties and welcomes the invitation for a visit to Ankara. The date and format are still to be discussed.
The positive agenda could include focus on migration issues, customs union modernization and “high level” sectoral dialogues, the EU official explained.