A scheduled teleconference on Tuesday between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel is expected to be pivotal for a crisis in Greek-Turkish relations which Berlin has been trying to defuse ahead of a summit of European Union leaders later this week.
Although both Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas and Erdogan’s adviser have indicated that exploratory talks between the two countries can likely resume soon, the message coming out of Berlin on Monday was less optimistic.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said there was no progress to report from Merkel’s mediation efforts ahead of the EU summit which starts on Thursday, underlining again that Berlin is appealing for “de-escalation, dialogue and the resolution of the contentious issues through direct talks.”
Another issue to be discussed at the EU summit this week is Cyprus’ veto of EU sanctions against Belarus. At Monday’s EU foreign affairs council, officials drafted a list of 40 Belarusian officials that would face asset freezes and travel bans. However, the Cypriot government refused to sign the list unless the EU moves to impose sanctions on Turkey over its violation of Cypriot sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell referred to a “high-voltage political problem that the European Council will have to solve.”
There was reportedly some irritation among representatives of some member-states about Cyprus’ stance. However, Borrell said he understood Nicosia’s position and that possible sanctions against Turkey would be a point of discussion.
In Nicosia meanwhile, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou underlined the unity and solidarity between Greece and Cyprus in the face of Turkish provocations. “The two countries maintain a common, solid diplomatic front,” she said during talks with her Cyprus counterpart Nicos Anastasiades.