Greek, Turkish FMs meet to mend ties, trade barbs instead

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, walks with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, left following their joint media statement after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, April 15, 2021. Dendias travelled to Ankara for talks on the two NATO allies' fraught relationship, following a slight easing of tensions between the neighbors. The visit is the first between the two nations following a tumultuous year. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ANKARA – A meeting aimed to improve fraught ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey quickly descended into a tense exchange of accusations between the two neighbors' foreign ministers on Thursday.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias traveled to Ankara to discuss ties with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, following a slight easing of tensions. Appearing before the cameras to deliver their press statements, the two men initially spoke about keeping the channels of dialogue open and increasing economic cooperation in an effort to improve relations.

But their meeting soon turned sour after Dendias accused Turkey of violating Greece's sovereign rights in the eastern Mediterranean and warned that Ankara would face European Union sanctions if the violations continue. Cavusoglu retorted calling Dendias' remarks “unacceptable.”

The two ministers then proceeded to list grievances against each other's country.

The visit was the first by a Greek minister following a tumultuous year. Angered by what it perceived to be a lack of support for its policies in Syria, Turkey announced last year that it was opening its western borders, prompting thousands of migrants to gather at entry points to Greece, which promptly closed them down. This led to chaotic scenes at the frontier.

Tension flared again in the summer over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, leading to a military buildup that featured warships from the two countries facing off. The dispute strained Ankara’s relations with the whole European Union.

Tensions eased after Turkey pulled back its energy research vessel and adopted a more conciliatory tone toward Greece and other EU nations.

“First of all, we should move away from the discourse and actions which are provocative and which raise tensions, which is a condition for our relations to improve,” Dendias said. “Breaches have increased recently and such infringements are an obstacle to creating an environment of trust.”