Turkey hosts Greek delegation for second round of confidence-building talks over Aegean

Published 20.06.2019 18:07
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (2ndR) poses for a photo with Greek military delegation arriving in Ankara for confidence-building talks. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (2ndR) poses for a photo with Greek military delegation arriving in Ankara for confidence-building talks. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)

Turkey hosted a Greek delegation for technical negotiations in the capital Ankara to enhance cooperation in the Aegean Sea, the National Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

"Conducted in a constructive atmosphere, the second round of technical meetings in Ankara between Turkish and Greek delegations were concluded today", read a ministry statement.

The meetings focused on confidence-building measures and improving cooperation in the Aegean Sea, it added.

"Talks focused on activities within the framework of CBMs at the technical level in order to prevent unnecessary tension during military activities," the Greek Defense Ministry said in a statement, also confirming that the talks were completed in a constructive atmosphere.

Following the talks, the Greek delegation was received by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar for a courtesy meeting.

Last month, a Turkish defense delegation visited Athens between May 20 and 25 for a technical meeting with Greek officials to boost cooperation, especially in confidence-building measures and code of conduct in the Aegean Sea.

The former head of Greek delegation, Lt. Gen. Nikos Zachariadis, had resigned earlier on June 3 over the approaching snap elections in the country and the talks should be postponed.

Turkey and Greece have several disputes in the Aegean Sea, including the extent of territorial waters, airspace and continental shelf with the navies and air forces of the two countries often engaging each other in chases or dogfights. The Turkish Foreign Ministry had accused Greece of attempting to abuse international organizations, including NATO, and draw them into Aegean disputes to justify its national positions, particularly by militarizing its islands in the Eastern Aegean, which were put under demilitarized status by virtue of several international agreements, including the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the Treaty of Paris of 1947.

Moreover, Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot Administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area and stating that the exclusive economic zone unilaterally declared by Nicosia violates part of Turkey's shelf, particularly in Blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Ankara says hydrocarbon drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean region, launched after unilateral exploration and licensing moves of Greek Cyprus and has turned into a source of tension between the two countries and with the EU, are based on its legitimate rights stemming from international law.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey used its guarantor rights to intervene on the island after a far-right Greek Cypriot military coup sponsored by the military junta then in power in Athens sought to unite the island with Greece. The coup followed decade-long inter-ethnic violence and terrorism targeting Turkish Cypriots, who were forced to live in enclaves when Greek Cypriots unilaterally changed the constitution in 1963 and stripped the island's Turks of their political rights.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), established in 1983 on the northern one-third of the island, is only recognized by Turkey and faces a longstanding embargo in commerce, transportation and culture. Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot Administration enjoys recognition by the international community as the Republic of Cyprus, established in 1960.

The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.

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