Amid a new diplomatic effort, led by Berlin, to diffuse tension between Greece and Turkey, Athens has made it clear that the prospect of Ankara announcing exploratory activities in areas south or east of Crete that are designated in the Turkey-Libya memorandum is a red line that it will not allow to be crossed.
Tellingly, there is a growing military presence of Greek and allied forces, mainly at the Souda base on Crete, while Greece and France continue to strengthen their military cooperation. Athens is in talks with Paris for the procurement of 12 Rafale fighter aircraft while Spain and the UK are interested in supplying frigates to Greece, Kathimerini understands.
In the meantime Athens is waiting to see if Turkish armed forces will, as some expect, start taking up advanced positions in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean from Monday.
Against this backdrop, this week is considered crucial as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is to visit Athens and Ankara on Tuesday as part of Berlin’s ongoing mediation efforts for resumption of a Greek-Turkish dialogue.
Maas is to assess whether there are grounds for a fresh tripartite meeting between the advisors of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, namely Jan Hecker, Eleni Sorani, Ibrahim Kalin.
Maas’ visit will be followed by the informal meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers (Gymnich) on Thursday and Friday in Berlin during which Athens and Nicosia plan, if Turkey persists with violations of the sovereignty of the two countries, to ask EU High Representative Josep Borrell to present a document with options for sanctions against Turkey.
The Gymnich coincides with the expiration of the request submitted to the Turkish Energy Ministry by Turkish Petroleum Company (TPAO) for a permit to explore in areas designated in the Turkey-Libya memorandum.
Given these deadlines, it is seen as particularly crucial for Germany’s mediation to achieve results without delay and set up a new tripartite meeting.
For its part, Athens has stressed that it is unthinkable for any dialogue to start as long as the Turkish fleet is still deployed in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. As of late Friday, not a single unit of the Turkish fleet had left the region while the Turkish air force remained active, attempting to monitor areas included in the Turkey-Libya memorandum.