BY DAILY SABAH
Turkey is an indispensable partner and more closely linked to Germany than almost any other country, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement ahead of her first official visit to the country. She will meet her Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday.
Baerbock underlined the importance of the human dimension in Turkey-Germany relations and widespread cooperation between the two countries. She is a former leader of the Green party, a junior partner in Germany’s center-left coalition government.
“The hearts of millions of people beat for both our countries,” she said, referring to Germany’s 3 million-strong Turkish community.
Baerbock said her talks in Ankara and Istanbul with top Turkish officials would mainly focus on the Russia-Ukraine war and regional security issues.
The grain corridor, NATO expansion, energy crisis, renewal of the customs union and political, social, and economic ties between the two countries are also expected to be on the agenda during Baerbock’s Turkey visit.
She hailed Turkey’s mediation efforts between Moscow and Kyiv, and said the Ukraine grain export deal “offers a glimmer of hope for millions of people that an even worse hunger crisis can be averted.”
The top German diplomat also called for closer dialogue between NATO allies Turkey and Greece to solve bilateral problems and de-escalate tensions in the Mediterranean.
“Never before has cohesion between NATO allies and European partners been more important than at this time when Russia is not only planning to subjugate Ukraine as a self-determined country but is also doing its utmost to divide our alliance,” she said.
Neighbors and NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants.
Turkey, in recent months, has stepped up criticism of Greece stationing troops on islands in the eastern Aegean, near the Turkish coast and, in many cases, visible from shore. These islands were required to be demilitarized under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris, so any troops or weapons on the islands are strictly forbidden. Also, Turkey and Greece have traded accusations of airspace violations in recent months. Turkey is demanding that Greece demilitarize its eastern islands, maintaining the action is required under 20th-century treaties that ceded sovereignty of the islands to Greece. Turkish authorities say the Greeks have stationed troops on Aegean islands in violation of the peace treaties that followed World War I and World War II.
Despite saying that it has no intention of entering into an arms race with its neighbor and NATO ally Turkey, Greece also continues to carry out an ambitious rearmament program for its armed forces. Greece’s burgeoning arms program is designed to counter the protection of Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has often warned Greece against indulging in an arms race, offering instead to resolve all outstanding issues, including in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus, through dialogue.
Baerbock is visiting Greece before heading to Turkey later on Friday. She is scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens.