The Greek Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that the 62nd round of exploratory contacts with Turkey will resume on March 16 in Athens.
Tellingly, however, Athens and Ankara differed in the manner they announced these exploratory contacts: In the official announcement it issued at the same time as the Greek one, the Turkish Foreign Ministry referred to March 16 and 17. What’s more, it referred not just to exploratory contacts, but also to political consultations between the two countries.
Diplomatic sources say that the acting secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Themistoklis Demiris, will indeed have political consultations with the Turkish deputy foreign minister, Ambassador Sedat Onal, also in Athens, a day later, on March 17, but emphasized that for Greece, the contacts were and remain exploratory.
Since the beginning of February, both Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar have referred to “consultation meetings” rather than “exploratory contacts.”
The exploratory contacts, as in the previous rounds, have a specific agenda, which is the resolution of the continental shelf dispute between the two countries and the issues related to it.
Political consultation, on the other hand, denotes a different process wherein foreign ministry officials raise issues and differences in relations between the two countries, ranging from minority to religious and many other issues. In the past this process was a regular one, almost every six months, but that stopped when relations deteriorated.
For the Turkish side, the political consultation is an upgrade, a dialogue, on the issues that concern the two countries, and that was the reason why Ankara had changed its rhetoric and added the consultations to its official statement, in contrast to Athens, which officially refers only to exploratory contacts.