While the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed the differences between Athens and Ankara it also signified the will of both sides for a quiet summer.
Ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Brussels on June 14, there is now guarded optimism in Athens that the coming months will unfold calmly.
Athens’ obvious concern is to avoid a renewed barrage of tension, similar to that of 2020. Moreover, given that Erdogan will also meet US President Joe Biden, it is beyond obvious that Ankara’s desire to reduce tensions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean is linked with the Turkish charm offensive directed at Washington.
Monday’s meetings, however, once again confirmed the distance between the two sides, with neither retreating from their positions. Indicative of the atmosphere that existed meetings was a sense of initial awkwardness between the members of the two delegations.
Athens had also publicly expressed, through Foreign Ministry representatives Alexandros Papaioannou, irritation over Cavusoglu’s statements on Sunday referring to Greece’s muslim community in Thrace as Turks.
Nonetheless, the low-key public statements by Dendias and Cavusoglou during their joint press conference on Monday was indicative of substantial convergence in the direction of conveying a message of dialogue, albeit with obstacles.
According to information from Turkey, the perception in Ankara was that the hospitality extended by Greece to the Turkish delegation was better than expected, as there was no repeat of the public confrontation between Dendias and Cavusoglou on April 15 in Ankara. The same sources pointed out that the dialogue that took place in Athens was befitting of two neighbors who understand that the existence of differences and disagreements is not an obstacle to the continuation of dialogue.
“The problems were put on the table,” the sources said, noting that the tone of the contacts was important. Turkish officials also noted that each side expressed its positions and that the Mitsotakis-Erdogan meeting will be a turning point. However, they noted there is no need for over-optimism, as there is still a long way to go before things can move forward.