The main conclusion drawn from Monday's visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was the mutual recognition that Greece can play a special role in Russia’s relations with the European Union, but also that Athens expects some support for its positions on maritime zones, while at the same time acknowledging the complicated relations between Moscow and Ankara.
Turkey took center stage in the talks between the two sides, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis describing it as “a troublemaker that violates international law, undermining peace in many sensitive parts of the world.” Moreover, amid the backlash in the EU over accusations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Europe, and France in particular, is targeting Muslims, Mitsotakis said he is worried by Turkey’s tactic of “dressing aggressive actions in a religious cloak, endangering harmonious coexistence of peoples and religions.”
Greece’s strategy, Mitsotakis said, is to move within international law and treaties. “We have proved this in practice by signing maritime demarcation agreements with both Italy and Egypt,” he said and thanked Lavrov for saying during his earlier meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias that every state has the sovereign right to extend its territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles, as stipulated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, of which Russia is a signatory.
Lavrov reiterated Russia’s support for resolving disputes under international law. “We agree that the tension created in the region needs to be de-escalated as soon as possible, so that the countries can proceed to resolve all the problems – which are not few – in the region, through direct dialogue,” he said. “This also applies to the issues under the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, when issues arise between neighboring countries whose interests intersect and there needs to be a settlement through transnational agreements,” Lavrov said, adding that “this can be achieved through direct dialogue.” Russia, he stressed, has “good, stable relations with the countries of the region” and is ready to contribute.
Meanwhile, Turkey canceled a navtex reserving parts of the East Med for military drills on Wednesday on a Greek national holiday in a “one-time move and gesture of goodwill” aimed “to show Turkey’s willingness to solve the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean with dialogue.”