NEWS

Athens cautiously welcomes de-escalation

Mitsotakis, Erdogan meeting ‘better than expected’ as Greece pursues wait-and-see approach

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In the wake of the much anticipated meeting on Monday in Brussels between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the mood in Athens was cautiously positive on Tuesday.

“Disagreements obviously remain, despite the positive mood, and it remains to be seen in practice if this disposition proves to be an essential step for the improvement of relations,” government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said on Tuesday, as issues, most notably the delimitation of the maritime zones in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, remain and must be addressed in the context of international law.

What was clear on Tuesday as government sources told Kathimerini, was that the meeting went “better than expected” and that, for the first time in the last 18 months, Erdogan showed a real willingness to de-escalate and seek a minimum level of reconciliation.

And it is within this context, the same sources said, that there is satisfaction in Athens without however going overboard as strong disagreements still remain. 

However, the restoration of communication between Mitsotakis and Erdogan creates reasonable expectations that the summer of 2021 will be different to 2020. 

Athens is also attaching great significance to the second paragraph of the joint NATO Summit communique where it states, “We commit to reinforce consultations when the security or stability of an Ally is threatened or when our fundamental values and principles are at risk.” The reference to “fundamental values and principles” is seen in Athens as a message to Ankara.

In any case, a de-escalation is in the best interest of both countries. 

Greece is seeking to reboot its economic recovery and get tourism back on track. Athens also does not want to appear as part of the problem and wants to entrench its position in NATO as a force for stability in the region. For his part, Erdogan is under intense pressure, not least from the US, while he also wants to avoid sanctions at the upcoming European Council on June 25.

Financial problems and the upcoming 2023 elections have also played a role in changing Erdogan’s attitude. However, he has not backed down completely from incendiary acts as he plans, for example, to visit the Turkish-occupied territories of Cyprus on July 20 to inaugurate a drone base.