Greek FM Dendias to visit Turkey for East Med talks

As Ankara and Athens increase diplomatic contact to ease the Eastern Mediterranean tensions, Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will visit Turkey on Thursday.

Turkish sources told Daily Sabah that Dendias is expected to meet with his counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday, a day later than initially planned.

Dendias last week stated that he will visit Turkey as long as the positive attitude from Ankara continues and expressed his intentions for the bilateral negotiations to be relaunched.

During his visit, Dendias is expected to first meet with Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul before his visit to meet Turkish officials in the capital Ankara.

Çavuşoğlu last month announced that Dendias’ planned visit to Turkey on April 14, after the NATO members resumed talks to seek common ground in a decades-old maritime dispute.

Last month’s talks were the second meeting this year after the two sides met in Istanbul in January, ending a nearly five-year pause in the dialogue – and taking place only after European Union pressure.

The latest talks did not start on the best note after a diplomatic note from Ankara a day earlier drew a line in the sand. The note was addressed to Israel, Greece and the EU, telling them to seek Ankara’s permission before proceeding with work on a proposed undersea power cable in disputed Eastern Mediterranean waters.

The two NATO allies have been at odds over a number of decades-old issues, including the extent of their continental shelves, overflights in the Aegean Sea and the ethnically split island of Cyprus. Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by European Union members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Both sides cite a range of decades-old treaties and international agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.

Hostilities flared last year when Ankara sent a research ship accompanied by a navy flotilla into waters near the Turkish coast that Greece asserts belongs to it – a claim the EU supports. Those waters are thought to be a possible source of natural gas reserves. Turkey is furious that Athens is using its web of islands to lay claim to huge swathes of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiation table and opted to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.