Analysis of Continuation of Talks Between Turkey-Greece Without Preconditions

2023/09/20 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - Opinion: The recent meeting of foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece in Ankara was held in a friendly atmosphere under the influence of Greece’s aid to Turkey following the two deadly earthquakes in Turkey and then Turkey’s condolences to Greece for the deadly train accident earlier this year. This meeting was held after the meeting of Turkish President Erdogan and Greek Conservative Prime Minister Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the NATO meeting in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in July. In recent negotiations, the foreign ministers of the two countries discussed old disputes such as the Cyprus issue, the stalled process of Turkey’s membership in the European Union and illegal immigration, the framework for strengthening economic and commercial cooperation, and the development of cooperation in fields such as transportation, maritime cooperation, trade, and technology, environment protection and fighting against natural disasters. Mahmoud Fazeli - International affairs analyst

It is said that the two countries have agreed to propose new initiatives to resolve the differences between the two countries and emphasized continuing the dialogue without any preconditions and strengthening bilateral relations based on shared interests in all fields.

Turkish Foreign Minister “Hakan Fidan” stated that the two countries can solve their problems based on international laws and respecting mutual rights and interests. Ankara has entered a “new and positive era to solve problems” with Athens. In the negotiations with our Greek counterpart, we discussed the bilateral disputes in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. We have differences about the Aegean Sea, but we agreed to develop new practical initiatives to resolve the differences. We used to raise such issues in consultation meetings. We are focused on resuming this process shortly. The restoration of communication channels between Turkey and Greece is a positive development. I appreciate the Greek nation and government sending humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims in Turkey last February.

The Turkish Foreign Minister added: Asylum seekers are not an issue for us to compete over, and we should cooperate in this regard. We do not want to see more casualties in the Aegean Sea.

The Turkish Foreign Minister appreciated the aid sent by Greece after the February 6 earthquake. The Turkish side refused to use the term “Turkish minority,” which is usually used by the Turkish authorities to describe the Muslim minority of Turkish origin in the “Trakiya” region, and demanded protection for their rights.

Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis, who described his responsibility and that of his counterpart as a “historic opportunity,” announced: In his negotiations with his Turkish counterpart, he reviewed a road map in 3 stages, including political negotiations and confidence building. Turkey and Greece will hold a high-level Cooperation Council meeting before the end of 2023, which is the first meeting of this council in the past seven years. We are not daydreamers. We know that the gaps created over time and the sufferings inherited from the past cannot be erased at once. But there is a desire and will to invest in honesty and mutual understanding to find common ground and break the fixed beliefs of the past. If there is a difference of opinion on an issue, at least let’s not let it cause a crisis.

The Greek Foreign Minister announced support of Athens for the accession process of Turkey to the European Union, subject to the implementation of the set criteria, and stated that the strict and complete implementation of international law is a prerequisite for achieving progress in the talks.

Undoubtedly, the official start of political talks on October 17, as a framework in which the difficult differences between Greece and Turkey will be discussed, is one of the important results of the meeting of the two countries’ foreign ministers. At that summit, issues such as investment, trade, tourism, agriculture, and shipping will be on the two countries’ agenda.

Resolution of the fundamental differences between the two countries, including the agreement of the parties to refer to the case of delimitation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone, is considered difficult; it is necessary to take parallel steps to maintain a positive atmosphere in relations and build trust. In recent negotiations, a road map was defined for the remaining months until the end of the current year. In this meeting, the two sides emphasized the suspension of the military activities of the two countries and the carrying out of large maneuvers in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, the immediate communication between the two foreign ministers in the event of a crisis in relations with direct monitoring of bilateral political contacts, the holding of the meeting of the High Cooperation Council of Greece and Turkey at the end of the year in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece, after seven years, the meeting of the leaders of the two countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the beginning of political talks at the level of the deputy ministers of foreign affairs and the implementation and strengthening of the negotiations at the military level as soon as possible regarding confidence-building measures.

The words of the two ministers show that the parties have decided that the Cyprus issue will not play a role in bilateral negotiations for the time being. The decision of the two sides to remove the case of Cyprus from the primary agenda, on the one hand, shows the objective problems related to this issue, and on the other hand, that Athens and Ankara do not want to burden the agenda with an issue that cannot be resolved at least in the current situation. Temporary removal of the Cyprus issue from the agenda of the negotiations of the two sides, while the recent words of Jack Straw, the former British foreign minister, that due to South Cyprus opposition to Kofi Annan’s plan to resolve the Cyprus problem in 2004, the European Union should have postponed the membership of the Greek Cypriot part of the European Union, shows that the differences of the parties involved have even revealed their effects among the Europeans themselves. From Jack Straw’s point of view, if the negotiations for a new constitution and the unity of Cyprus fail again, the international community should focus on trying to solve the Cyprus problem based on the plan of the two countries.

Following the meeting of the foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece, Germany welcomed the recent steps to bring Turkey and Greece closer together. It announced the country’s readiness to mediate to improve relations between the two countries. During the time of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Olaf Schultz, the current chancellor of Germany, Germany had often mediated to reduce the tension between Athens and Ankara.

Both Turkey and Greece are members of the NATO defense alliance and have been in dispute for years over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. Still, after the catastrophic earthquake in Turkey, the situation in the field has changed to some extent, and tensions between the two sides have decreased significantly. Still, without a doubt, regardless of political orientation, no party in Greece will support the logic of “sharing the Aegean resources.”

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