Against the backdrop of seemingly relentless tension, the defense ministers of Greece and Turkey, Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Hulusi Akar, agreed during a short chat on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday to keep their channels of communication open.
According to well-informed sources, the two ministers stressed the need for direct contact between them until the situation returns to normal. That is, until there are official channels again at the other levels of bilateral relations.
The government in Athens and the Defense Ministry, between which there was constant coordination, feel the meeting’s results are a step forward, but optimism is restrained as the messages that Ankara has been sending are mixed, with other officials seemingly vying to outbid themselves in the level of their incendiary rhetoric at home and abroad.
Of particular importance is the fact the announcements issued by the two ministries were almost identical.
According to the official announcement by the Greek Defense Ministry, the meeting “underlined the importance of maintaining open communication channels in the spirit of good-neighborly relations and focusing on a positive agenda, which will contribute to building a better climate and bilateral and regional cooperation.”
“The minister of national defense stressed, in this context, the importance of reducing tensions,” the statement added, echoing the Turkish one.
Meanwhile, the European Commission sent a message to Ankara on Thursday, warning of an “appropriate response” if Turkey does not commit to good-neighborly relations.
On the sidelines of the summit, Panagiotopoulos met with his German, French, Italian, Bulgarian and Montenegrin counterparts and discussed the security situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the further strengthening of bilateral defense cooperation.
Panagiotopoulos referred to the situation in Ukraine and stressed the importance of a 360-degree approach to NATO defense reinforcement and deterrence.
In this regard, he stressed, according to the Defense Ministry, the multidimensional contribution of Greece to NATO, highlighting the strategic value of the port of Alexandroupoli for strengthening the forces of the Alliance’s eastern wing, but also as a gateway for the safe and unimpeded energy supply of Greece and NATO member-states in the region.