As Ankara on Thursday sent out what was seen in Athens as mixed signals, German Ambassador to Greece Ernst Reichel insisted that Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it her personal business to prevent military conflict between the two neighbors and for them to achieve a peaceful demarcation of their maritime zones.
Speaking to the European Parliament’s Special Standing Committee on European Affairs, Reichel also defended Berlin’s more neutral stance toward Ankara at this stage. It is clear, he said, that Germany cannot address Turkey with the utmost harshness because it would destroy its ability to mediate.
He noted that Turkey’s Oruc Reis research vessel was withdrawn from the sea area close to Kastellorizo last weekend, and if matters stay on course, “we will soon move on to the next step, which is the start of the so-called exploratory contacts.”
Ankara meanwhile left the window of exploratory contacts open, but hardened its stance toward Nicosia, talking about a “two-state” solution in Cyprus.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to Ankara’s choice of diplomacy despite what he called the “provocations and childish behavior” of Greece. “From the beginning, we said that the issues can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said, adding that despite Greece’s behavior, “we continued to act properly and with dignity, as befits our state.”
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin expressed hope during yesterday’s European Council on Foreign Relations online event that steps would be taken “soon” in order to continue the negotiations, making it clear that he was referring to the exploratory contacts. He said it is “a long process” and that no one should expect results in the coming days or weeks but that conditions for the launch of talks are favorable.
Referring to the Oruc Reis, Kalin stressed that its withdrawal to the port of Antalya was an opportunity given by Erdogan for diplomacy. He added that he saw political commitment to negotiate from both sides.
Regarding Cyprus, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Thursday that there is no common ground for compromise. Ankara, he said, will accept negotiations only for two possibilities: Greek Cypriots accepting the “political equality” of the Turkish Cypriots at all levels, or the two sides beginning to negotiate a process for a two states solution.