NEWS

Greece, Turkey start 62nd round of talks

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The 62nd bilateral “exploratory talks” between Greek and Turkish officials started without a hitch on Tuesday in Athens.

The talks, which lasted four hours, were led by the same veteran career civil servants who were at the 61st round, in Istanbul, Ambassador Pavlos Apostolidis, who also served as head of the National Intelligence Agency, and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.

Eleni Sourani, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ chief diplomatic adviser, was at the lunch that followed Tuesday’s talks to underscore Mitsotakis’ engagement.

The exploratory talks are aimed at paving the way for higher-level meetings, but Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Tuesday that conditions were not ripe for a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. Cavusoglu, for his part, insisted on Tuesday that he is ready for a meeting anytime.

The two sides, as expected, kept their cards close and nothing of consequence was leaked to the media. It is known, however, that the two sides talked about sovereign seas and maritime zones, the only issue of contention that Greece has agreed to talk about.

Wednesday’s political talks could be a little trickier as the Turks are expected to raise issues such as the Muslim minority in the Greek province of Thrace and Greece’s harboring – and refusing to extradite – supporters of Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers as perhaps his Number 1 enemy.

The Turkish delegation also includes experts on the Cyprus issue, so this is expected to be raised at Wednesday’s meeting, along with differences over exclusive maritime zone delimitations and the exploitation of resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Turkish side think Tuesday’s talks went well and that the main aim of both sides is to reactivate communication channels that existed in the past to prevent tensions from flaring up dangerously. No date has been set for the next round of talks, in Turkey.