Turkey, Greece resume exploratory talks on territorial claims after four-year break

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The long-stalled exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece over disputed territorial claims in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean commenced in Istanbul on Jan. 25 after four years of hiatus.

The Turkish delegation was composed of Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, general director of Bilateral Political Affairs and Maritime-Aviation-Border of Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ambassador Çağatay Erciyes, and Maritime Aviation Border Deputy General Manager Ambassador Barış Kalkavan.

Ankara and Athens held 60 rounds of talks from 2002 to 2016, which were then suspended over an objection by the Greek side regarding the content.

Bilateral talks continued in the form of political consultations but did not return to the exploratory framework.

Last year, the plans for the resumption of exploratory talks foundered over a survey vessel that Turkey sent into disputed waters and over disagreements concerning territorial claims in the region.

Greece only wants to address the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey says all issues should be tackled, including air space and the status of some Aegean islands.

“It is not right to pick one of those [issues] and say, ‘we’re holding exploratory talks.’” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week, criticizing Greece’s approach as non-constructive.

Earlier Çavuşoğlu said that more than 5,000 pages of documents were created during these talks, which mainly focused on territorial issues regarding the Aegean Sea.

“The only sure thing is the positive approach of Athens. I hope the Turkish side will come to these talks in the same spirit,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told the Greek Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper in an interview on Jan. 23.

“I want to be clear that [subject] is the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone [EEZ] and continental shelf in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean on the basis of international law,” Dendias said.

The exploratory talks were not negotiations but rather discussions to determine whether there was enough convergence between the two sides to allow for future negotiations on specific issues in the future, he said.

If negotiations are to be carried out after the exploratory talks but Ankara and Athens are unable to reach a deal, they will have to agree on a text and refer the issue to the International Court in The Hague, he noted.

Hurriyet Daily News

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