In the runup to the resumption of exploratory contacts on January 25, Turkey is seeking to set the agenda, adding issues it wants to negotiate despite Greece’s insistence that the sole topic for discussion is the delimitation of maritime zones between the two countries.
More specifically, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Ankara wants to discuss issues ranging from the demilitarization of the islands to search and rescue areas.
What’s more, during their meetings on Tuesday with European Union ambassadors in Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the one hand expressed their satisfaction over the imminent resumption of exploratory contacts with Greece, while at the same time accusing Athens of provocative actions.
“Greece in recent years is increasing airspace violations, as well as increasing its illegal activities on islands with a demilitarized regime. We call on Greece to stop its activities that increase the tension,” Erdogan said in a speech addressing the ambassadors. He argued that the exploratory contacts may be the harbinger of a new era in relations between the two countries, but stressed that what happened in recent months in the Eastern Mediterranean “showed our country’s determination to defend our rights.”
He stressed that peace in the Mediterranean will not result from any equation that does not include Turkey and the entity in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. To ratchet up tensions even further, Turkey has reportedly threatened that it will send the Oruc Reis research vessel out into the Eastern Mediterranean again if the EU maintains a tough stance toward Ankara.
Asked about the demilitarization of Greek islands, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Tuesday that “no Greek government has ever discussed them in the past; it will not discuss them either [now].” Mitsotakis said the government sought to resume discussions by setting a specific framework.
“There should be no activity inside the Greek exclusive economic zone and the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean is the sole subject of discussion,” he said. “It is better to talk within a specific context than not to talk at all,” he added.
For its part, the US State Department on Tuesday expressed satisfaction about the resumption of exploratory contacts on “the delimitation of maritime zones.” These talks have the potential to contribute to an easing of regional tensions, it said.