Turkey, Greece look for a calm Eastern Mediterranean summer | Business and Economic News


About a year ago, the Eastern Mediterranean region was boiling over maritime border disputes between historical rivals Greece and Turkey.

In Libya’s recent military developments, Ankara dispatched drilling ships to disputed waters in the Mediterranean, while Greece mobilized the support of Turkey’s regional rivals—Egypt, France, and the United Arab Emirates—to prevent it from thinking that Turkey’s Legitimate hiking. Waters.

As tensions intensified, as Greece sent frigates to track Turkish ships, there was a military build-up in the Mediterranean. In August, the two warships collided while trying to pass each other.

In April, the foreign ministers Blame each other At the turbulent news conference held in Ankara at the end of the first meeting in more than a year, the two sides discussed a wide range of issues.

Fast forward six weeks, which may explain why both countries viewed Monday’s low-key visit to Athens by the Turkish Foreign Minister as a small victory.

Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Dendias said after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevrut: “The purpose of our meeting today is to first try to establish common ground, and then, if possible, to promote the gradual normalization of the situation in the long term. “Cavusoglu.

Prevent outbreak

At the joint press conference, the two senior diplomats of the two countries worked together to prevent any outbreaks on issues such as Cyprus, maritime borders or sovereignty claims.

Panayotis Tsakonas, head of security projects at the Athens-based think tank ELIAMEP, told Al Jazeera: “It is in the interests of both countries to keep tensions low.”

At the height of the tensions last summer, Greece lobbied the Council of Europe to impose sanctions on Turkey, while Athens has been eager to emphasize that its dispute with Ankara, whether it is immigration or maritime rights, is related to the entire European Union.

“I have the opportunity to discuss with my friend and colleague Mevlut Cavusoglu all issues related to our bilateral relations and the relationship between the EU and Turkey,” Dendias said in the opening speech.

But the European Council, and Germany in particular, has been reluctant to impose sanctions on Turkey, and instead focused on its commitment to strengthen cooperation with Ankara when tensions eased.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, agreed with Greece’s attempt to gain support from the European Union. In an interview on Monday, it was stated that the active EU-Turkey agenda “will only be implemented if progress is made in different areas,” especially the Greek-Turkish relationship.

The European Council is scheduled to meet in June to discuss relations with Turkey.

Turkish Coast Guard accepts immigrants allegedly deported by Greece [Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE]

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Ankara hopes that the EU will update the customs union agreement reached with the EU and demand a more relaxed visa policy for Turkish citizens.

In 2020, Turkey is the sixth largest trading partner of the EU, with a total trade volume of 132.4 billion euros (161 billion US dollars).

Although technically still a contender for EU membership, negotiations on the rise of Turkey have reached a deadlock.

In early May, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to end the admissions process in Turkey due to regressions in human rights and democratic values.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement rejecting the text, and in doing so blamed part of the deterioration of relations on Greece.

“[It] Reflects the completely unfair and biased arguments of the Greek and Greek Cypriots on the Aegean Sea, Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus issues,” it said.

Tsakanos said that Turkey’s restraint in the Eastern Mediterranean and foreign minister’s visits in the past few months are recognition of the poor state of EU-Turkish affairs and the high risk of the upcoming European Council meeting.

“This visit focuses on relations with the United States, mainly relations with the European Union,” he said. “Turkey has an understanding that their relationship with the West is carried out through Athens.”

Although the tension has significantly cooled down, the trust between the two parties is limited.

Murat Aslan, an analyst at the SETA Foundation, an Ankara think tank close to the Erdogan government, told Al Jazeera: “The Turks have a strong view that the Greeks have the motive to provoke Let Turkey make the mistake.”

The main goal of Cavusoglu’s visit on Monday is to prepare for the meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mizotakis and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO summit on June 14. .

The last time the leaders met was at the NATO meeting in December 2019.

Their tense encounter happened in the announcement Turkey-Libya Maritime Agreement According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Athens claims that it is illegal to ignore Greece’s right to own an exclusive economic zone through the Mediterranean islands.

Mizotakis-Erdogan Summit

Aslan said that the upcoming meeting will be partly influenced by how Mizotakis received Erdogan and pressure from Greek partners.

“The United States and the European Union have always been the determinants of Greece’s strategy. If they encourage the downgrade of the Greek leadership, Mizotakis should be more moderate,” he said.

On Monday, the two sides seemed more willing to pay attention to the positive aspects of bilateral relations.

They announced about 25 articles to improve economic ties and stated that they will mutually recognize each country’s COVID-19 vaccination certificate to improve travel.

Both Greece and Turkey hope to restart the hard-hit tourism industry in the summer of 2021.

Tourism accounts for about 20% of Greece’s GDP and directly employs one-fifth of Greeks. In Turkey, tourism is an important source of foreign exchange.

The Turkish economy has faced increasing pressure in the past few months. Recently Erdogan Purge the second senior official The central bank in the country.

Last week, the Turkish Lira exchange rate against the U.S. dollar fell to its lowest level on record.

When asked about the economic pressure that Turkey is facing and how this will affect the tensions with Greece entering the summer, Aslan said: “Erdogan has no personality to sacrifice national interests for the value of the Turkish lira.”


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