INTENATIONAL RELATIONSAnkara , 16-04-2021
Turkish, Greek FMs trade accusations at news conference
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece clashed openly on Thursday at a joint news conference in Ankara that began with hopes of improved relations but quickly descended into acrimonious accusations from both sides.
Seeking to ease months of tensions over territorial disputes in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in the first visit by either side since their navies came close to fighting last year.
However an initially cordial atmosphere at a media appearance following the meetings turned sour as Dendias said violations of Greek sovereignty would be met by sanctions and Cavusoglu rejected his comments as "unacceptable".
"You come out here, and try to accuse Turkey, to give a message to your country. It is not possible for me to accept this," Cavusoglu said in response to the remarks.
The 2 countries are allies in NATO but at odds over many issues, such as competing claims over the extent of their continental shelves in the Mediterranean, air space, energy resources, ethnically split Cyprus, and the status of some islands in the Aegean.
Tensions flared last summer when Turkey sent a drilling ship to contested Mediterranean waters, but have eased slightly after Ankara withdrew the vessel and the countries resumed bilateral talks over their disputes following a five-year hiatus. read more
Having begun by offering Greek support to Turkey's bid to join the European Union and a new agenda to reset relations, Dendias accused Turkey of repeatedly sending aircraft over its territory.
"Greece's position is clear. Turkey has violated international law and maritime law in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean," Dendias said.
Cavusoglu rejected the charge, saying Turkey had not infringed on Greek sovereignty in its search and drilling work and accusing Athens of pushing back migrants in the Aegean.
"When we get into mutual accusations, we have a lot to tell each other. If you want to continue these arguments, tensions, you can (and) we will do so as well," he added.
However both sides said they wanted to continue to try to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Hellenic Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has expressed his satisfaction over Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ handling of a tense press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara Thursday.
The 2 men met at Maximos Mansion Friday.
Diplomatic sources Thursday confirmed that Dendias was acting with the full support of Mitsotakis during the press conference.
The full-blown confrontation, running the gamut of issues pervading Greek-Turkish relations, lasted more than half an hour, suggesting that despite the public statements about the bid to establish a positive agenda, both during Dendias’ meeting with Cavusoglu and the earlier one with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a wide chasm remains.
Speaking to a media outlet, diplomats and journalists in Turkey expressed their surprise over the incident.
A day after an unusually tense press conference between the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in Ankara, the Hellenic Foreign Ministry in Athens issued a statement confirming that the government remains committed to “promoting a positive agenda” in bilateral ties while calling for closer cooperation in a range of areas.
“There have always been and there will always be disagreements” in Turkey’s relations with Greece and the European Union, the ministry said in a statement issued in Greek Friday.
“At the same time however, as Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias stressed during his contacts in Ankara yesterday, the Mitsotakis government has a clear will to promote a positive agenda in relations between the 2 countries and cooperation on a range of issues,” it said.
The ministry said that closer cooperation over economy and trade will help de-escalate tensions and improve bilateral ties.
It said that Greek diplomats proposed 15 areas where the 2 countries can cooperate.
The Foreign Ministry reiterated that Greece remains firmly committed to international law and European values.
(Photo: Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias looks on during a news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu (not pictured) in Ankara, Turkey April 15th, 2021. Turkish Foreign Ministry /Handout via REUTERS)