As Tensions Rise Again, Turkish and Greek Officials to Meet
By Dorian Jones May 27, 2021
Turkey's foreign minister is scheduled to hold talks in Athens with his Greek counterpart Monday in the latest efforts to deescalate tensions between the two NATO members.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu rebuked his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias at a press conference in Ankara last month.
The very public argument over who was to blame for the lack of progress in resolving the countries' differences underscores the scale of the ministers' task when they meet in Athens Monday, says Cengiz Aktar of the Athens University.
"I think the Greeks are very realistic," he said. "They, of course, prefer to talk, that's what they said right from the beginning. But what we know is that the disagreements are there to stay. There is no development whatsoever on the numerous, countless issues and the problems that exist between the two countries."
Turkey and Greece are contesting territorial waters between the countries which are believed to have vast energy reserves. Last year, the Greek and Turkish navies faced off against each another.
In a sign of renewed tensions, Turkey has announced it may resume drilling for energy in waters claimed by Greece.
Adding to the friction, Ankara accuses Athens of breaking international law by pushing back refugees entering Greek waters from Turkey.
Greece denies the charge, accusing Turkey of reneging on a refugee deal with the European Union. Earlier this month, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar accused Greece of sabotaging diplomatic efforts to resolve differences.
Akar said Turkey is in favor of a peaceful resolution of these problems within the framework of international law and good neighborly relations by talking and negotiating with its Greek neighbors. However, he accused those neighbors of — in his words — "doing their best to sabotage the positive state of affairs with their actions and discourse."
A Turkish presidential advisor says he believes Greece is increasingly emboldened because of growing support from Washington. The U.S. has traditionally played the role of an honest broker between the NATO members.
But U.S.-Turkish relations are currently strained over Turkey's deepening ties to Moscow.
Ilhan Uzgel, an analyst for the Turkish news portal Duvar, says the expanding military cooperation between Greece and the United States could usurp Turkey as the primary host for U.S. military bases in the region, a prospect Ankara fears could change the balance of power.
"What Washington is trying to do, is [say] that 'you are not irreplaceable,' that Turkey can be substituted that [there] may be some alternatives. The United States can have a military base in Alexandroupoli in Greece and in Crete. This psychology diminishes the bargaining power of Turkey," he said.
The Turkish military dwarfs its Greek counterpart, but Athens is embarking on a modernization of its military, including the United States' latest F-35 fighter jet, which Washington refuses to sell to Turkey because of Ankara's purchase of a Russian missile system.
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