Berlin bridge-building effort undermined by Ankara

Berlin bridge-building effort undermined by Ankara

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday revealed that a secret trilateral meeting between Turkish, German and Greek officials, mediated by Berlin, took place ahead of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on Monday in the wake of Turkey’s controversial decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque. 

Cavusoglu’s revelation was seen as undermining the prospects of the trilateral meeting.

In referring to the meeting, Cavusoglu was referring to what had been intended to be a confidential exchange between the diplomatic advisers to the German chancellery, to the Greek premier and to the Turkish president, Jan Hecker, Eleni Sourani and Ibrahim Kalin respectively.

According to well-informed sources, Hecker had been due to meet with Sourani for talks on the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund and separately with Kalin ahead of Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting whose focus was on Turkey’s aggression in the East Mediterranean and its move on Hagia Sophia.

According to German sources, a proposal was tabled during the meeting for the resumption of exploratory talks between Athens and Ankara that were broken off in 2016. The conditions that were set were for Turkey to crack down on irregular migration through Greece and not to proceed with its drilling plans in the East Med, something that reportedly did not sit well with Kalin.

Although officials in Athens were rankled by the move, they noted that Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council conclusions vindicated Greece’s position as they called on Ankara to scale back its provocations. They added that it was particularly crucial for channels of communication to remain open during a crisis.

Separately on Tuesday it emerged that Turkey’s permanent representative to the United Nations Feridun Sinirlioglu has submitted a new letter to the organization, dated July 7, which repeats previous claims regarding the coordinates of Turkey’s maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding that those, together with a maritime borders accord signed with Libya, mark the “external borders of Turkey’s continental shelf.” The letter adds that Turkey’s plans to explore for hydrocarbons relate to areas within Turkey’s continental shelf. The deal has been dismissed by Greece and the EU as invalid as it encroaches on Greece’s continental shelf.

Meanwhile, Greece, along with Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrein, have sent a note verbale to the UN, asking it not to recognize the Turkey-Libya accord.

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