Turkey Criticised Greece Before Exploratory Talk

Turkey and Greece are set for an exploratory talk on 25 Jan. In this talk, Greece wishes to discuss its extension of the maritime zone in the Aegean from six nautical miles to twelve that borders Turkey. On 21 Jan, the Greek Parliament passed the law to approve the extension by a 284-0 vote. This is the first negotiation between the two countries since 2016. Greece is looking forward to it while Turkey appears to be dissatisfied to Greece’s agenda.

Turkey criticised Greece’s focus on the maritime zone. According to Reuters, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, condemned Greece as “non-constructive:” “It is not right to pick one of those (Maritime Dispute) and say ‘we’re holding exploratory talks’.” Before the two sides agreed on the talk, Hürriyet reported that the Turkish Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar accused Greece that “When we tell ‘Let’s talk,’ it doesn’t approach. It goes door to door spreading its lies.” Comparatively, Greece remains positive to the talk. The Greek Prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said: “We will attend with optimism, self-confidence.”

Turkey wants to address many issues, from the sovereignty of some Aegean islands to Muslim rights in Greece when Greece has made it clear that it won’t discuss sovereignty. Greece tends to be proactive. It is steadily building its regional influence in the eastern Mediterranean. It has signed a deal with Egypt that demarcate parts of its Exclusive Economic Zone in October 2020 and secured a $1.68 billion defence deal with Israel early in January. Meanwhile, Turkey’s relation with its western counterparts is going downward. The U.S. and the E.U. have imposed several sanctions to Turkey due to its deployment of a Russian-made defence system, evasion of Iran sanctions and disputes over energy and maritime borders. The Turkish President Erdoğan is frequently criticised for democracy backsliding and human rights violation. As a result, Greece has strategic advantages in this talk.

Turkey and Greece have a long-standing rivalry since Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. The tension has been escalated due to Turkey’s departure from Europe in the last five years. In November 2016, only eight months after a Turkey-E.U. migration deal, the E.U. suspended Turkey’s accession negotiation. After then, the bilateral relationship has been tumultuous. The two countries have disputed in a wide range of security issues, including refugees, cyberattack and ethnic communities in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Greece’s concentration on the maritime border in the future talk responds to a Turkey-Libya delimitation agreement that cuts across the Greek-claimed maritime zone in 2019. There have been at least three vessel-sailing incidents between the two countries since then.

Turkey is not as assertive as it looks. Although Greece alone has comparably little bargaining strength, Turkey urgently needs rapprochement with the E.U. France has been active in supporting Greece against Turkey. The E.U. constitutes around 43 per cent of Turkey’s total trade. This is significantly higher than its next three largest partners, including the U.K. (6.2 per cent), the U.S. (5.6 per cent) and Iraq (4.6 per cent). Turkey is showing its desires to warm up its relationship with the E.U. On 20 Jan, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Brussels. Reuters posts that the E.U.’s comment to the visit is “an improvement in the overall atmosphere.” Therefore, Turkey might compromise some border issues in exchange for reconciliation with Europe.

Jiannan Luo