Ankara, Turkey – In the second half of 1999, a period of rapprochement began between Turkey and Greece after the relations of the two countries had deteriorated because of the “Öcalan Affair”.
Turkey renewed its calls for a bilateral dialogue on the Aegean issues in this new period and proposed the resumption of the talks on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) that were held between the NATO Permanent Representatives of both countries.
Consequently, Turkey and Greece resumed talks on CBMs in late 2000 in two channels, the NATO Permanent Representatives and the Political Directors. To this date, the two countries have agreed upon 19 CBMs. The process continues.
In February 2002, Greece responded positively to Turkey’s continued calls for a dialogue on the Aegean issues and the Foreign Ministers of both countries decided to launch “exploratory contacts” between the two countries with a view to finding ways of resolving the Aegean issues. The first of these contacts, held at the level of the Undersecretaries of Foreign Ministries, took place in Ankara on 12 March 2002. So far 36 meetings have been held in this framework. This process also continues.
Turkey hopes that these endeavors will lead the way to a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement to the Aegean issues that is mutually acceptable by both sides.
In the wake of the almost month-long standoff between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, the foreign ministers of both countries, Nikos Dendias and Mevlut Cavusoglu, give their analysis of the situation and the way forward in their articles .
Dendias insisted that Turkey must respect international law, engage in a dialogue, refrain from threats and the pursuit of a strategy of that seeks to create faits accomplis.
All this does, he stressed, is undermine trust. “Sovereign rights in maritime zones are neither a product of an individual perception of law nor do they vary according to the correlation of size and power between states,” he writes.
For his part, Cavusoglu also insisted on the need for dialogue, but without preconditions.
“Preconditions beget counter-preconditions (believe me, we could come up with quite a few of our own) and thus are not a good way to seek talks between two neighbors,” he writes.
Meanwhile, a new diplomatic marathon is under way with the aim of resuming, as soon as possible, the exploratory contacts between Greece and Turkey.
This effort will have Germany as its focal point, with a new tripartite meeting not ruled out in the coming days, so as to coordinate the necessary moves. According to the most optimistic estimates, these new contacts contacts could start as early as the next two weeks.
Earlier on Monday, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that “any discussion related to exploratory contacts is welcome. There is no broader framework for other issues to be on the table nor an expansion of the agenda on the table.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the withdrawal on Saturday night of Turkey’s Oruc Reis seismic vessel from an area south of the island of Kastellorizo, but Athens remains nonetheless cautious to see if this was a move of substance by Turkey or just a ploy that will lead to renewed tension.
There were some indications from Ankara of a willingness to resume dialogue on Monday, with Ibrahim Kalin, a close associate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stressing via Twitter that Greece and the European Union must not miss the opportunity given to diplomacy and must take reciprocal steps.
He reiterated that Turkey will defend its interests and rights, adding that “a peaceful solution to the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean is possible.”
At the same time, the Greek and Turkish military representatives will meet for the third time on Tuesday with an official of the alliance’s military committee in Brussels, seeking a common framework that will allow the start of the bilateral dialogue on the creation of a deconfliction mechanism.
With the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis, the basic condition set by Greece for the start of this technical dialogue was met.