Risks, opportunities in Turkish FM’s visit

Risks, opportunities in Turkish FM’s visit

Greece believes the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu carries both risks and opportunities and could prepare the groundwork for the meeting between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the June 14 NATO Summit in Brussels.

​​​​​​According to analysts, the talks between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Cavusoglu as well as the latter’s meeting in Athens with Mitsotakis on Monday will not be “easy.” Athens will raise the illegal Turkey-Libya maritime memorandum as well as the Turkish claims that lie outside international law.

The Greek side will also ask to be informed of Ankara’s intentions in relation to the migration issue, which will be high on the European agenda in June.

For his part, Cavusoglu is expected to raise the issue of the extradition of supporters of the Gulen movement from Greece, who are considered terrorists in Ankara, as well as issues concerning Greece’s Muslim minority in Thrace.

Itself seeking a calm summer, Athens is reportedly evaluating the messages conveyed by Ankara, that its goal is to tone down the rhetoric. It is nonetheless preparing for any eventuality. 

This is firstly due to the choice of the Turkish minister, before arriving in Athens on Monday, to visit Greece’s Muslim communities on Sunday morning in Xanthi and Komotini in northeastern Greece.

And, secondly, it is wary of a possible repeat of the tense atmosphere that pervaded the press conference of the two ministers in April during Dendias’ visit to Ankara.

What’s more, eyebrows were raised in Greece over Erdogan’s recital from the Quran on Friday inside Istanbul’s iconic Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, a Greek Orthodox cathedral that had been serving as a museum but was turned into a mosque last year.

However, it is believed that, at this stage, a framework has been set up which can keep tensions at relatively low levels.

With Erdogan seen to have spent significant political capital in confrontations with key international players, including France, he is now seeking to normalize relations with the Biden administration in the US, and cannot afford a renewed escalation of tensions right now.

Furthermore, after their public confrontation last April, Dendias and Cavusgolu have no reason to turn their meetings into a continuous vendetta.

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