Turkish, Greek foreign ministers to meet on April 14 aiming to ease tensions

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on March 17 said that his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias would visit Turkey on April 14. The announcement of the meeting comes as Turkey and Greece held the 62nd round of talks in Athens on March 16.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (L) and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias are seen in this file photo.

Duvar English 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias will meet in Ankara on April 14, officials said on March 17, in a renewed effort to ease months of heightened tensions.

Çavuşoğlu said the meeting would prepare the ground for talks at a later stage between the leaders of Greece and Turkey.

Earlier, Dendias said that he was willing to meet Çavuşoğlu "in the right atmosphere." 

“I am willing to meet with my Turkish counterpart and friend Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. In order to be meaningful, however, such a meeting would have to take place in the right atmosphere,” Dendias said on March 17 after talks with the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad Al Malki in Athens.

The Greek foreign minister said he hopes that talks will lead to finding a common ground to resolve "the sole bilateral dispute” between the two countries.

"In other words, the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, in accordance with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.

Greece and Turkey held more exploratory talks in Athens on March 16, agreeing to talk again after more than 60 rounds as they seek common ground on a long-standing maritime boundaries dispute before a European Union summit this month.

The NATO allies are at odds over issues such as competing claims over their respective continental shelves, maritime rights and air space in the Mediterranean, energy, ethnically split Cyprus, and the status of some islands in the Aegean.

Turkey this week protested against a deal between Greece, Israel and Cyprus for an undersea cable linking their electricity grids. According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Ankara says the planned route for the cable runs through Turkey's continental shelf.

The exploratory talks are meant to lay the ground for formal negotiations but the two countries have made little progress in more than 60 rounds of meetings since 2002 and cannot even agree on what issues to discuss.

The talks concluded after nearly four hours and the two sides agreed to hold another round in Istanbul, according to diplomatic sources cited by Greek state TV ERT. No details were given on the substance of the meeting.

A separate meeting between Greek and Turkish officials outside the exploratory framework was scheduled to take place on March 17.

Ending a five-year hiatus, officials met in January after months of tension in the eastern Mediterranean.

Athens has said it will discuss only the demarcation of exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, not issues of "national sovereignty." 

Ankara, which hopes to improve its relations with the European Union, which has supported EU-member Greece and threatened sanctions on Turkey, has said it wants all issues, including air space and the Aegean islands, on the table.

European leaders are expected to discuss the eastern Mediterranean at a meeting on March 25-26.

Greece, which in recent years has reached maritime accords with Italy and Egypt, say if the two sides fail to agree, they should refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.