Turkey and Greece have announced that they intend to resume the exploratory talks on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, which have been suspended since 2016, on 25 January. This is good news which has long been hoped for, as the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean recently escalated to a dangerous extent: Turkey and Greece, European partners and NATO allies, had even sent warships to confront each other. Foreign Minister Maas had on several visits repeatedly urged de-escalation and direct talks – and that’s what is happening now. As a NATO partner, Turkey has an obligation to settle even difficult disputes through negotiations in compliance with international law and to refrain from jeopardising peace in the region.
Now the priority is to make real progress and resolve issues in dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean through pragmatic, constructive talks between the two sides. These issues include the situation in Cyprus. Turkey sent a positive signal here, too, with the early withdrawal of the drilling vessel Barbaros from Cyprus waters. Heiko Maas wants to make use of this dynamic, because détente in the Eastern Mediterranean is crucial for the region’s stability and for improving relations between the EU and Turkey.
EU-Turkish relations and the transatlantic relationship
In the past few weeks, the Turkish side has sent some fundamental, positive signals to the European Union, including an invitation to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel to visit Ankara. In addition, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu is to travel to Brussels soon. At the same time, the European Council’s offer of a “positive agenda” to Turkey remains on the table, if the country makes lasting efforts towards de-escalation. For the German Government, these constructive signals can be first steps towards rebuilding lost trust, because EU-Turkish relations have been greatly strained over the past few months, in many areas.
Transatlantic relations are another important point on the agenda for Germany and Turkey as NATO partners. For Joe Biden’s election as US President could bring fresh dynamism to the Alliance. Foreign Minister Maas will talk with his counterpart Çavuşoğlu about Turkey’s expectations of the new US Administration and also the possible impact on ongoing discussions within NATO.