Erdogan halts Turkey-Greece talks as rift widens

Turkish president says will pause talks, partly over dispute with Greek PM and what Ankara calls airspace violations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey is halting talks with Greece, partly over a dispute with the Greek prime minister and what Ankara calls airspace violations, marking the latest reversal in the neighbours’ long-testy relationship.

Last year, after a five-year hiatus, the two NATO members resumed talks to address their differences in the Mediterranean Sea and other bilateral issues. The talks have made little progress and the countries have frequently traded barbs.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey had cancelled a bilateral cooperation platform, dubbed the High-Level Strategic Council, with Greece, adding in a speech to legislators from his governing party that Ankara wanted a foreign policy that “had strong character”.

“You keep putting on shows for us with your planes,” Erdogan said, referring to a dispute with Athens about airspace over islands in the Aegean Sea. “What are you doing? Pull yourself together. Do you not learn lessons from history?”

“Don’t try to dance with Turkey. You’ll get tired and stuck on the road. We are no longer holding bilateral talks with them. This Greece will not see reason,” he said.

The countries have long been at odds about a range of issues such as maritime boundaries, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, airspace, refugees and Cyprus.

The talks had made little headway, but were a means for the two countries to air out their grievances without resorting to a potential armed standoff as had occurred as recently as two years ago.

Tensions flared again last week when Erdogan said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him, accusing him of trying to block sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey during a visit to the United States.

On Tuesday, Mitsotakis told reporters after a European Union summit that he had briefed his EU counterparts about Turkey’s “aggressiveness” and “provocations which cannot be tolerated by Greece or the European Union”.

“I will not be involved in a game of personal insults,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday Greece was violating international agreements that determine the demilitarised status of islands in the Aegean, warning that if Athens did not change course Ankara would launch challenges over the islands’ status.

Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Cavusoglu’s comments showed Turkey was threatening Athens.


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