Kotzias: Athens wants to move from confrontational to cooperative relations with Turkey

Converting confrontational relations with Turkey to relations of cooperation is Athens’ abiding aim, on condition that Ankara respects international law and channels of communication with Turkey remain open, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said in a letter to main opposition New Democracy MPs on Wednesday.

Kotzias was replying to questions put by ND’s Parliamentary Group concerning Turkish violations in the Aegean and the escalation of tension with Greece’s neighbour. It was now more necessary than ever to employ diplomacy to ease the tensions, he pointed out, “because if diplomacy falls quiet there will be no counter argument to the irresponsible voices on both sides, with all this means concerning the possibility of an ‘accident’.”

As proof of the power of diplomacy to defuse tension, the minister noted that Turkish violations and infringements had dropped off sharply in the period immediately after he visited Turkey.

He noted that Greek-Turkish relations had been at a virtual standstill for about a year, with no meeting of the High-level Cooperation Council since 2016 and a cessation of exploratory talks between the military in the two countries, while the bilateral meeting on the level of foreign ministers was in summer of 2016.

“During my recent visit to Turkey, it was agreed that the HCC should meet, possibly in February 2018, and to resume contacts between the two foreign ministries on all levels,” Kotzias said. There was also agreement on a resumption of talks between the Greek and Turkish military to discuss confidence building measures, he added.

Kotzias strongly criticised the way that ND’s question had been leaked before going through official Parliament channels, however, so that he was informed of its existence and content from the press.

He was also scathing about the purpose of ND’s question, saying it seemed to suggest breaking off all talks and contact with the Turkish side. “Are you supporters of a policy of ‘modern isolationism’? I have to point out that even if Greece followed such a policy the problems you describe would not only continue to exist but become greater and possibly with even more dangerous consequences,” he said.

Kotzias offered assurances that the Greek government and foreign ministry would not overlook anything in the name of understanding and a peaceful settlement of differences with neighbouring countries but continue to unfailingly defend Greece’s rights and territorial integrity.