Not only did Turkey continue to ignore Athens’ proposals for the next round of exploratory contacts between the two countries on Monday, its Defense Ministry once again revisited the issue of demilitarization of the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean, going as far as denouncing the presence of Greek warships at Kastellorizo.
By late Monday night, the Turkish side had not proceeded with the submission of alternative dates to those that had been proposed by Greece.
Turkey had already undermined Greek efforts for the contacts to restart with the mission of its Cesme research vessel in the Aegean and then with the aeronautical Blue Homeland exercise which ended on Sunday.
Athens, however, does not rule out Ankara responding positively on the eve of the March 25 European Union Summit in Brussels, in order to pre-empt a possible discussion on sanctions over its aggressive stance in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.
The council is also expected to coincide with the presentation of the report on Turkey’s progress by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, which in any case is not expected to have an adverse impact on Ankara.
The possibility of holding the 62nd round of exploratory contacts in Athens shortly before or after the summit will certainly help Ankara’s efforts to appease the US, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is still waiting for the first phone call from new US President Joe Biden.
On a purely operational level, however, this year’s Blue Homeland exercise had little to do with those of previous years in terms of scale – mainly due to the fatigue of the Turkish Navy, and also to the low availability of units due to the coronavirus pandemic, among other things.
Meanwhile on Monday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo to discuss bilateral relations.
The meeting took place in the wake of Turkish claims of impending negotiations between Ankara and Cairo on delineating an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two states in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Egyptian diplomatic sources said that no talks would be held in the absence of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus.
Also on Monday, Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis discussed Euro-Turkish issues with the ambassadors of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands in Athens.