NEWS

Germany, US pivotal in ice-breaking call

STAVROS PAPANTONIOU

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy, Turkey

A key role in the effort to restore communication channels between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was played behind the scenes by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the US, Kathimerini understands.

The two men talked on the phone last week for the first time after six months of complete silence.

According to reports, for at least two weeks prior to the call, there had been the strong belief in Athens that it was crucial for channels of communication between the two sides to reopen, as relations were at a standstill and there was concern that they could be derailed at any time as a result of ongoing Turkish provocations in the Aegean.

Moreover, Mitsotakis had been in constant contact with Merkel and they had even talked as recently as May 19, without it becoming public knowledge, following the Franco-German agreement on 500 billion euros of subsidies to fight the coronavirus. Apart from the the economic issues, Mitsotakis also raised the issue of Turkish provocations with the chancellor, as he always does in all his contacts with European officials. 

Merkel in particular is seen as a key figure as she not only maintains good relations with Ankara, but her country will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on July 1, which only increases the possibility of an intervention by Berlin.

In addition to the prime minister’s conversation with Merkel, the US factor, which has always been a means of pressure on Turkey, also reportedly played a role in the phone call between Mitsotakis and Erdogan.

Regardless of President Donald Trump’s domestic problems, the US political establishment has always kept an eye on the Eastern Mediterranean.

To this end, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who remains in constant contact with US Ambassador in Athens Geoffrey Pyatt, visited Ankara in October last year. 

The half-hour conversation between Mitsotakis and Erdogan revolved around the recent tension in the Aegean.

The two leaders agreed that it had reached unacceptably high levels and that communication channels needed to be restored.

Mostly, however, views on so-called “low diplomacy” were exchanged. They also discussed the impact of the pandemic as issues linked to the opening of borders in the EU and the restoration of tourist flows.

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