As NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg prepares for talks in Athens on Tuesday following a visit to Ankara on Monday, after an agreement between the two sides to relaunch exploratory contacts, a new push appears to be under way to resolve the long-standing Cyprus problem, another bone of contention between the two countries.
Stoltenberg, who is to meet on Tuesday with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, on Monday expressed the hope that an agreement by Greece and Turkey on a military “deconfliction mechanism” – including the setting up of a hotline between the two countries to avoid military tensions and accidents – “can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts.”
Meanwhile, the departure of the Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz from Block 6 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was seen on Monday as a step toward a possible de-escalation of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean. It remains to be seen whether Turkey’s Barbaros research vessel will follow suit and leave Block 3 of Cyprus’ EEZ.
Discussions regarding a possible relaunch of talks to reunify the divided island are expected to gather pace next week, following elections planned for October 11 in the Turkish-occupied north of the island, which is recognized only by Ankara.
In Turkey meanwhile, the maximalist rhetoric continued with a Turkish Defense Ministry official declaring that Ankara “will defend our Blue Homeland in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, for his part, hit out at Greece and France, which has backed Athens in the East Med, referring to “bad allies… who constantly bring our differences to NATO.”