Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s visit to Turkey on Tuesday comes in the wake of a two-year deterioration in bilateral relations and the emergence of a new front dividing the two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Tsipras will meet in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will also host a dinner in his honor after they hold a joint press conference.
Apart from the symbolic significance of Tsipras’s planned stopover at the Halki Orthodox Seminary – which was shut down by Turkey in 1971 – his aides have anything but high expectations from the visit.
A case in point is Erdogan’s reported personal annoyance at Greece’s failure to extradite the eight servicemen he accuses of taking part in the failed coup attempt in 2016.
At the same time Ankara is also aggressively pushing its energy agenda in the Eastern Mediterranean. Its research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa was observed sailing off the southern coast of Cyprus in recent days and within the island’s exclusive economic zone.
Referring to the agenda of Tsipras’s visit, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that discussions will be held on bilateral trade relations, energy issues, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the TurkStream pipeline, the Muslim minority in Thrace, the Greek minority in Turkey as well as “the Aegean, the Mediterranean, the continental shelf and the islands.”
He reiterated that Ankara will not tolerate any action in the Eastern Mediterranean that aims “to trap Turkey in the Gulf of Antalya.”
For his part, in an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, Tsipras underscored the need for the two countries to build a relationship of “mutual respect.”
“Things must change,” he said. He also acknowledged that his relationship with Erdogan “was challenged in very difficult moments, but allowed us to consolidate channels of communication on many levels, to overcome obstacles and to be able, today, to speak of a positive agenda.”
He said the relationship is based on “respect, honesty and directness.”