Double-edged message issued by Ankara

Double-edged message issued by Ankara

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday left open the possibility of meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted that the agenda of the upcoming exploratory contacts between Athens and Ankara must include “all disagreements” and not just maritime areas of responsibility as Greece wants.

Referring to the recent talks he had with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdogan stressed that “in all these talks, the request for a meeting with Greece and Mr Mitsotakis was an issue that we addressed positively.”

“There have also been meetings between our foreign ministers. We, in turn, agreed to start exploratory talks. Now, after our special representatives, there could be a meeting between me and the prime minister. We are open to taking these steps,” he said, adding that “these developments are moving in that direction.”

His statements were a departure from about 10 months ago when he had reportedly refused to be “at the same table” with the Greek prime minister when he was invited to a meeting by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

At the same time, however, Cavusoglu told Sabah newspaper regarding the exploratory contacts that Ankara has made it clear from outset that “we are ready to meet unconditionally and discuss all issues.”

“Exploratory contacts include all issues of disagreement,” he said.

All the issues discussed in the previous 60 rounds of talks which were cut off in 2016 will be discussed in the exploratory contacts, he added.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias reiterated in Lisbon that Greece’s right to expand its territorial waters “is non-negotiable” and that Turkey must respect international law on this issue. “We do not need to negotiate with another country to expand our territorial waters.”

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