Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas needs to explain why he remained silent after his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu threatened Greece at a joint press conference earlier this week, Dora Bakoyanni, a prominent lawmaker and former minister of foreign affairs has said.
“It does not make sense that a country outside the EU threatens a member country and that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of that country [Germany] does not respond,” the lawmaker of the ruling New Democracy party (EPP) said.
Maas visited Ankara last Monday (18 January) to discuss with Turkish officials the escalating crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and particularly the tense relations between Greece and Turkey.
At a joint press conference after the meeting, Çavuşoğlu said, “If Greece insists on not cooperating, then the responsibility for any tension between the two countries will be on the shoulders of Athens”, hinting that whenever an incident would occur Greece would be held responsible.
Maas did not react to the Turkish threat and this caused anger in Athens.
“I want to hope that because Turkish is a difficult language and because the translation to German can sometimes have gaps; that the German Foreign Minister’s answer will be that this phrase was not translated. If this is not the case, then Greece has the right to strongly express its dissatisfaction,” Bakoyanni said.
“If [Maas] understood what Çavuşoğlu said and remained silent, then we have the right throughout the EU to say that this cannot be the position of an EU partner,” she added.
During last year’s escalating crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean between Athens and Ankara, Germany stepped in as a mediator to help ease tensions. But in an interview with EURACTIV, former foreign affairs minister Nikos Kotzias said this was a mistake.
“Instead of [Greece] trying to understand and solve a problem with Turkey, you end up trying to influence Berlin or convince it not to be pro-Turkish. In short, the negotiation goes elsewhere,” Kotzias said.
Following months of tensions, Greece and Turkey are re-launching on 25 January “exploratory talks” to test waters if an official dialogue could take place between the two countries.
But the thorny issue of the exploratory talks is what is agenda would be. Athens insists that only issues related to maritime zones should be discussed while Ankara wants to put all issues on the table including the demilitarisation of islands, seen by Greece as an attempt to question its sovereignty.
Last week, the Turkish coastguard harassed a Greek fishing boat close to the island of Imia escalating tensions a few days before the launch of “exploratory talks” between Ankara and Athens. (See VIDEO here)
In addition, Ankara announced that it will hold new military exercises in the Aegean Sea, some of them expected to last until the end of the year.
Today, the Greek parliament will decide on the extension of Greece’s territorial waters from 6 to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea.
Turkey has for decades disputed Greece’s rights in the Aegean Sea, which is on the other side of the country. The Turkish parliament declared 25 years ago that any extension of territorial waters from Greece’s side will be considered a casus belli (act of war).