Picking up where Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left off last week, the defense ministers of both countries will continue exploring ways to keep channels of communications open between Athens and Ankara in the context of NATO’s ministerial summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
The government has sought to capitalize on the symbolism of Tsipras’s visit to Turkey last week, which included tours of the Hagia Sophia monument and the Halki Theological Seminary, but analysts have been quick to note that on the day of his arrival in Ankara, Erdogan placed a bounty on the head of the eight servicemen accused of taking part in the coup attempt in 2016 who Greece has refused to extradite.
Moreover, Turkey’s military presence in the East Mediterranean remains considerable, while there has been no letup in the incursions of the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa survey vessel in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
On Friday, Turkey announced that its second newly procured drillship will be sent to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Against this background, defense ministers Evangelos Apostolakis and Hulusi Akar are expected to discuss confidence-building measures to prevent any escalation in tensions between the two countries. Apostolakis is also expected to the raise the issue of Turkish overflights in the Aegean.
Apostolakis will also meet the Defense Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Radmila Sekerinska.
He will become the first Greek senior official to meet a defense minister from FYROM, which by Wednesday will be officially called North Macedonia.