Greek, Turkish officials discuss easing tensions

Greek, Turkish officials discuss easing tensions

Greek and Turkish officials meeting in Istanbul on Monday expressed a joint interest in scaling down tensions in the Aegean, sources said following the cancellation of a scheduled meeting between Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, apparently because the latter was feeling unwell.

Pavlopoulos and Erdogan had been due to meet on the sidelines of a summit in Istanbul marking the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).

The Greek leader ended up sitting next to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at an official dinner on Monday night when bilateral issues were said to have been discussed, though he refused to have an official meeting with Yildirim. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also attended the dinner and, sources said, expressed satisfaction at the outcome of a recent meeting in China between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Erdogan.

Addressing the BSEC summit earlier on Monday, Pavlopoulos appealed for closer cooperation, saying that efforts to bolster BSEC should “aspire towards overcoming our differences.”

As diplomats expressed their desire for an easing of tensions, Turkish aircraft violated Greek national air space in the northeastern, central and southeastern Aegean.

According to Greek defense officials, two Turkish F-16s, both of which were armed, and four helicopters carried out six violations of the Athens Flight Information Region.

There was one mock dogfight, according to Greek defense sources, who said Greek jets intercepted the Turkish aircraft in line with international rules of engagement.

Turkish violations of Greek air space and territorial waters increased in the wake of last summer’s failed coup in Turkey and then again in the runup to a referendum last month aimed at boosting Erdogan’s powers.

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