A meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu yielded a significant breakthrough on Friday as Ankara agreed to Athens’s longstanding request that issues relating to exclusive economic zones be included on the agenda of exploratory talks between the two sides.
Diplomatic sources told Kathimerini that although the Aegean and the continental shelf had been part of discussions, Turkey had, until now, rejected requests for issues such as the eastern Mediterranean and exclusive economic zones to be added to the list of topics debated.
Venizelos and Davutoglu agreed that the next meeting of the Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council should be in September.
The two men also talked up economic cooperation between the two countries, with Davutoglu saying that Ankara would like to see bilateral trade double from the current rate of 5 billion dollars per year.
Both men also underlined the importance of settling the Cyprus issue, which Venizelos referred to as the “key” to resolving other differences between Greece and Turkey.
“Greece supports the initiatives of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to outline new confidence-building measures between the two communities,” said Venizelos.
“Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are trying to secure progress on a joint statement,” Davutoglu said. “Cyprus must remain a single state, this is very important.”
Their optimism contrasts with the mood in Nicosia, where Anastasiades has gone on record this week as saying that he fears the latest effort to revive reunification talks is in danger of stalling after Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu refused to agree on a joint declaration in which both sides would commit before further talks to the idea that any new state to emerge would have one citizenship, one international personality and one sovereignty.
United Nations negotiator Alexander Downer met on Friday with Anastasiades in Nicosia but refused to be drawn on the talks’ prospects.
“Once there is an agreement to start the negotiations, negotiations will begin. I am not getting into the game of predictions,” he said. “These are understandably delicate times and the less we say about the substance of these issues the better,” he added.