After 63 tries, Greece-Turkey exploratory talks will resume

ATHENS – While 63 rounds of negotiations have failed for years to resolve their differences, Greece and Turkey will attempt a 64and hour, the next round scheduled for February 22 in the Greek capital.

It comes during a time of particularly high tension between them with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and senior government officials in his administration even warning that there could be war if Greece expands its territorial waters by 6 to 12 miles – more shorter than the distance between some Greek islands. and the Turkish coast.

On the table for discussion, a series of issues, including sovereignty of airspace and seas, maritime zones and Turkey’s plans to hunt energy off the Greek islands as it already does off the coast of Cyprus, resulting in soft sanctions from the European Union.

Greece and Turkey had suspended talks for five years before resuming them in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic lingered, but three more rounds came to nothing quick and ended in nothing but chatter informal, nothing resolved.

Turkey has repeatedly accused Greece of intransigence and everything wrong between them, although Turkey has violated Greek airspace and waters with warplanes and warships.

Erdogan has said he wants diplomacy on his terms, offering talks as he steps up provocations, including Turkey now demanding Greece withdraw its troops from the Aegean islands off Turkey’s coast .

He cited the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which he does not recognize, with Greece rejecting any idea of ​​demilitarization which would leave the islands vulnerable to being quickly taken by Turkey in the event of a conflict.

He also blamed Greece for rallying international allies, including the United States, despite NATO – to which the three countries belong – refusing to intervene on Turkey’s provocations.

He is also upset that Greece has struck deals with France to buy warships and fighter jets and wants to upgrade its F-16s and reach out to American-made F-35 fighters denied to Turkey for its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

Turkey has called Greece’s arming measures “futile”, said pro-government Turkish newspaper The Daily Sabah, which is the mouthpiece for Erdogan and government officials.

Erdoğan issued another warning against Greece over the demilitarization of the islands, as did Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who said: “If Greece does not give up this (the arming of the islands), the sovereignty of these islands will be discussed,” he said, multiplying the threats.

Sharon P. Juarez