In a bid to revive confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey, a delegation of Turkish military officials arrived in Athens on Monday for talks until Friday with their Greek counterparts in the presence of diplomats from both countries.
The main focus of discussions will be a memorandum signed by the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in 1988, which included a moratorium on flights by military jets over the Aegean on weekends, holidays and the summer months of July and August. Nonetheless, Turkish helicopters reportedly violated Greek airspace several times on Monday.
The meetings come at a time of mounting tension between Ankara and Nicosia, over Turkey’s plans to conduct exploratory drilling activities for hydrocarbons within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Expressing solidarity with Cyprus after talks in Nicosia on Monday with Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, the European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier reiterated that the EU is ready to respond accordingly if Turkey carries out illegal drilling activities within the Eastern Mediterranean country’s EEZ.
Echoing remarks by European Council President Donald Tusk after the EU Summit in Sibiu, Romania, Barnier stressed that “the EU stands clearly behind Cyprus and expects Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of the EU member-states.”
For his part, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras denounced Turkey’s behavior on Monday as “opportunistic” and called on Ankara to “sit at the table of dialogue and leave behind the behavior that leads nowhere.” He also said he did not expect Turkey to go through with drilling in Cyprus’s EEZ.
However, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a defiant tone at the weekend during the campaign for an election rerun for the mayorship of Istanbul that Turkey’s involvement in the area covering the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa is a given.