NEWS

Greek PM weighs options on way forward after Erdogan talks

ARISTOTELIA PELONI

TAGS: Diplomacy, Turkey

In the wake of the “difficult but useful” meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of Wednesday’s NATO summit in London, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is weighing his options over his next step amid the recent tension stemming from Ankara’s dispute of Greek sovereignty and increased migrant flows from Turkey. 

According to reports, Mitsotakis has asked members of his cabinet and close aides to suggest possible scenarios and initiatives, as well as their legal ramifications, for Athens’ response to Ankara’s moves. 

For the time being, Mitsotakis is preparing for next week’s European Council, where he plans to brief European Union member-states on the latest twist in Greek-Turkish relations. 

At the same time, the government is keeping abreast of developments regarding last week’s Turkish-Libyan maritime boundary accord in the belief that its ratification will be faced with obstacles and that, in the end and under diplomatic pressure, Tripoli will back away from it. 

The fate of the accord signed with Libya’s UN-supported government and which blatantly disputes Greece’s sovereignty, is expected to determine developments to a large degree. 

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Parliament on Thursday ratified the deal with a comfortable majority. The deal, which seeks to give Turkey authority over a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean, was ratified despite vehement objections by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, who have described it as a serious breach of international law, and within Libya itself – more specifically by the country’s rival political power base. 

For its part, Athens says that Libya has not cooperated sufficiently on the issue. Greece said on Friday it was expelling Libya’s ambassador to the country over the accord. Mohamed Younis AB Menfi had 72 hours to leave the country, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told a news briefing. The move did not mean Greece was severing diplomatic relations with Libya, he said.

At the same time, as the migration issue featured heavily in the talks between Mitsotakis and Erdogan, the government reportedly sees Friday's visit to Turkey by European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson to discuss the issue as its first crash test. 

Mitsotakis had complained to Erdogan that the Turkish Coast Guard has not been responsive to its Greek counterpart and that it only responds to “one in 20 calls.” 

Given that Erdogan claimed the reason Turkey is not enforcing its deal with the EU to stem the flow of migrants to Europe is mainly financial, it remains to be seen during Friday’s visit by Schinas and Johansson what exactly Ankara wants in order to reduce these flows. 

Mitsotakis, who met the pair in Athens on Thursday, noted that Greece relies heavily on European solidarity to tackle the problem, and referred to the Greek proposal for a European return mechanism while insisting on the need for a reasonable sharing of the burden.

Schinas reportedly referred to the prospects for European solidarity and the new asylum pact that is being drafted by the EU, while Johansson acknowledged the great pressure Greece is under, pointing out that the migration problem is also a European one.

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