Ankara puts brake on Berlin initiative

Ankara puts brake on Berlin initiative

The threats directed Tuesday against Greece by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared to have scuppered the German mediation initiative to de-escalate tension between the two countries. For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said earlier during a meeting with his visiting German counterpart Heiko Maas that Turkey must de-escalate the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean or face European Union sanctions. 

But Turkey appeared defiant, with Cavusoglu saying, shortly after his brief meeting in Ankara with Maas, that Turkey “will do what is necessary without hesitation” while denouncing Greece over its statements that it will defend its rights, warning it not to “endanger” itself by playing the role of bait for some countries – in what was seen as a clear reference to France, the US and the United Arab Emirates.

He insisted that Turkey wants a dialogue, but said that Greece cannot set the conditions, while also making reference to Greece’s Muslim community in Thrace. “If Greece respects international law so much, why does it not allow Turks in Western Thrace to use the name ‘Turk,’ despite the rulings of the EU Court of Human Rights,” he said.

For his part, Maas, who visited both capitals as part of Berlin’s mediation effort, stressed that further escalation would not be good for Greece and Turkey, nor, for that matter, the European Union as a whole.

Before Maas’ arrival in Ankara, the atmosphere in Turkey regarding Greece had already taken a negative turn, not least among the media, which also accused Germany and Maas of siding with Greece, rendering Berlin an unworthy mediator.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Hurriyet, the representative of the Turkish Presidency Ibrahim Kalin reiterated Ankara’s opposition to the maritime zones agreement between Greece and Egypt. He also said that Greece and Turkey should resolve the issues “on their own.” However, referring to the agenda of the talks, Kalin said they must include not only the issues in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean but also the rights of the Muslim minority in Greece. Kalin also said that “from time to time Greece raises maximalist demands.” 

Maas suggested while in Athens that the cessation of any military mobilization in the Eastern Mediterranean is a precondition for the successful resumption of the dialogue between Greece and Turkey. 

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