Duvar English

A secret trilateral meeting held between Ankara, Athens and Berlin has stirred debate in Greece.

Greece’s two largest opposition parties, the leftist Syriza alliance and the social-democratic Kinal on July 15 demanded immediate clarification from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to clarify the issue.

“Secret diplomacy shows that the Mitsotakis government is on the back foot,” Syriza spokesman Alexis Haritsis told the party’s radio station Sto Kokkino 105.5.

That was particularly true given that Greeks had heard about the situation from Turkey’s foreign minister, he said, referring to the fact that the secret meeting was confirmed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The news of the trilateral meeting was first reported in Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

According to the report, the meeting was held before the EU Foreign Affairs Council in the wake of Turkey’s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

The exact date of the meeting was not confirmed.

Sources told Kathimerini that the meeting was brokered by Berlin. The move is seen as an attempt to preserve the channels of communication between Athens and Ankara.

Çavuşoğlu on July 14 revealed that the secret trilateral meeting indeed took place.

The minister confirmed what had been intended to be a confidential exchange between the diplomatic advisers to the German chancellery, to the Greek premier and to the Turkish president, Jan Hecker, Eleni Sourani and İbrahim Kalın respectively.

Kathimerini, citing well-informed sources, reported that Hecker had been due to meet with Sourani for talks on the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund and separately with Kalın ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on July 13 whose focus was on Turkey’s “aggression” in the East Mediterranean and its move on Hagia Sophia.

According to German sources, a proposal was tabled during the meeting for the resumption of exploratory talks between Athens and Ankara that were broken off in 2016. The conditions that were set were for Turkey to crack down on irregular migration through Greece and not to proceed with its drilling plans in the East Med, something that reportedly did not sit well with Kalın.

Although officials in Athens were rankled by the move, they noted that the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on July 13 vindicated Greece’s position. They added that it was particularly crucial for channels of communication to remain open during a crisis.