FM Dendias: Greece will not accept an expansion of talks agenda with Turkey

Greece is open to exploratory talks with Turkey under the right climate, but has no intention of accepting “an expansion of the agenda”, as the neighboring country appears to want, Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias told To Vima newspaper in an interview published Sunday.

Athens is waiting for Ankara to set a date for the talks, as long as “the climate is appropriate, [the Turkish research ship] Oruc Reis is not ‘sailing around’ and as long as there is stability, rather than tactical actions,” he said.
Speaking of the prospects of the EU-Turkish relationship, Dendias said that the EU “is almost historically obliged to seek a change of Turkish society toward Europe, otherwise we have to plan along the lines of Europe as a fortress, which will not be pleasant.”

In terms of indications of where Turkey is heading, the Greek Foreign minister pointed out that “in terms of probabilities, 90 pct lead to the conclusion that Turkey will continue to deviate” from the path toward Europe “and 10 pct to converge.”

He stressed however that “this 10 pct is not negligible. We also have to understand that the 90 pct choice contains the danger of ‘a special relationship'” with the EU. “This could allow Turkey access to the European market without obliging it to keep to the rule of law and human rights,” which are necessary in the EU, he warned.

Dendias also pointed out that “as Europeans, we have not reached a consistent conclusion about the direction we want the relations with Turkey to take.” Greece’s strategy of the 1990s to seek the resolution of differences within the framework of the EU was courageous, but this is no longer feasible with Turkey’s divergence.

other issues he spoke on were the recent sanctions of the US against Turkey, which he said would affect the current balance. He asserted that the ground for this was laid by the US-Greek defense agreement of 2019, as “it offered the luxury of disengaging from Turkey’s geopolitical hostage-taking.” Dendias particularly noted the intervention of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in NATO, where “he essentially refuted Turkey’s basic argument that it serves as a ‘touchstone’ of the Alliance’s presence in our region.”

Athens, he noted further, is in contact with the United States for the revision of the main body of the defense agreement, “once we know the new American government’s aspirations.” The minister said Greece wishes to play a wider role in the Balkans, both for geostrategic reasons and for the development of the Greek economy. “Our geopolitical exchange is stability and security,” he underlined.

Speaking on the Libyan issue, he said the current Greek government “did not have a lot of choices when we came to power,” but the priority is to “guarantee that the Libyan shores across from Crete are controlled by friendly powers.” In terms of the future, Dendias said, “there are two basic goals: prevent the establishment of a Turkish base” in Libya and “the retraction of the Sarraj government’s decisions, such as the Turkish-Libyan memorandum” signed with the Tripoli government over maritime zones.