Seeking to contain a recent escalation of tensions in the Aegean, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim agreed to keep the lines of communication between Athens and Ankara open.
The discussion between the two men, who met on the first day of an official visit to Greece by Yildirim, ran the gamut of issues dividing the two countries – from Turkish airspace violations and the fate of the eight asylum-seeking Turkish servicemen, to the Cyprus peace talks and undersea gas exploration rights – as well as Ankara’s relations with the European Union.
Appearing eager to bottle the genie of confrontation, both men stressed the benefits of good neighborly relations between the two NATO allies.
In a joint press conference, Tsipras urged Turkey to put an end to airspace violations over the Aegean. “I stressed to Mr Yildirim that this situation isn’t helping at all and that these infringements cannot continue as they increase the risk of an accident,” the Greek premier said. Yildirim, however, added that violations were “not one-sided.”
The Turkish prime minister said that Ankara would like Athens to extradite the eight servicemen accused of being involved in last year’s coup attempt but, he added, “respects the judiciary’s decision.” Ankara had reacted vehemently after Greece’s Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s extradition request.
Tsipras cited energy as an area of cooperation, citing the TAP/TANAP pipelines and the advancement of the so-called “southern European corridor.” Tsipras also reaffirmed Greece’s support for closer relations between Turkey and Europe.
For his part, Yildirim expressed dismay at the EU’s stance towards Turkey’s referendum to revise its constitution, and said there a reset in relations with Brussels was needed.
With regard to Cyprus, Yildirim admitted that a solution may take time but insisted that there must be cooperation in regard to energy resources off the island’s coast. Turkey has threatened Cyprus not to go ahead with gas exploration and drilling.
Yildirim also met with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, before heading for Thrace in northern Greece to celebrate the end of Ramadan with members of the Muslim minority.