The condemnation of Turkey's recent actions in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was so universal that it created no room for establishing a precedent that might one day give rise to future legal claims on Turkey’s part, Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougalos said in an interview with the public broadcaster’s radio channel ERA1 on Thursday.
He said these actions, conversely, highlight Turkey's isolation even further, while noting that this was "an isolation we do not want." Greece, Katrougalos clarified, wants to engage in dialogue with Turkey but at a time “when Turkey is not acting illegally and always on the basis of the Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law."
If Turkey continues to act in this fashion, he added, "then measures must be taken,” while “the issue of sanctions has already been raised at an EU level," Katrougalos added.
The minister was careful to emphasise that staff-level talks between Greek and Turkish military personnel currently underway in Athens are exclusively focused on confidence-building measures (CBMs) agreed in the past and certainly not a “dialogue on all issues”, contradicting statements to this effect made by Turkey’s defence minister the previous day.
“Such a dialogue will happen when the circumstances allow, among politicians, not among military personnel," he added.
Asked about a possible diffusion of tensions in the Aegean Sea, given it is the start of the tourist season, Katrougalos noted that Turkey, notwithstanding its unilateral actions, did not want a war or a dangerous incident in the region “but no one can preclude such a possibility if tensions build up." He stressed that the measures which have been agreed in the past between the two countries must be implemented.
On the recent comments by the UK's Minister for Europe Alan Duncan, who said that "exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area in which sovereignty is under dispute,” and which caused both Cyprus' and Greece's severe reactions, Katrougalos said that it was an "extremely unfortunate statement," and that “corrective” statements later released by the UK were "inadequate" given that the UK had been present when the matter was discussed at the EU.
On the upcoming elections, Katrougalos said scenarios proclaiming a strategic defeat for SYRIZA "have collapsed," despite New Democracy's attempt to come across as a fresh political force, "as though it has never ruled before." He noted that all the recent statements by Mitsotakis "far exceed the neoliberalism and the extreme conservatism of his party in the past, and not just in law and order.”