ISTANBUL — Germany’s foreign minister is scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart in the Turkish capital, following a tumultuous year in Turkish-European relations.
Ahead of his arrival in Ankara, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted the difficulties of 2020 and warned that “this playing with fire must not be repeated.”
The visit comes amid an easing in tensions between nominal NATO allies Turkey and Greece. The two neighbours came close to the brink of war over the summer due to a dispute on maritime boundaries and energy rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Last week, both countries announced the resumption of exploratory talks and said meetings could take place between top officials, including the Turkish president and the Greek prime minister.
“We welcome the fact that Turkey has sent signals of détente since the beginning of the year – not just with words, but also with actions,” Maas said. He added that the return to talks with Greece is “an important first step” and pulling back the research ship Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa is also “a positive signal from Ankara.”
In December, the European Union gave the green light for the expansion of sanctions against Turkey over its exploration of gas reserves in waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.
Though Ankara has repeatedly said sanctions would not deter Turkey from defending its energy rights, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed a readiness to put frayed relations with the EU “back on track” and called on them to display the same determination.
“The positive momentum of recent weeks must be maintained in order to restore lost trust and create the basis for a solutions-oriented dialogue,” Maas said. “That is why I am travelling to Ankara today to encourage my counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to resolutely continue and perpetuate the constructive course of recent weeks.”
“As a NATO partner, Turkey has a clear obligation to sort out even difficult disputes in negotiations, observing international law, and not to endanger peace in the region.”
EU-Turkey relations also suffered a blow last year after Ankara made good on its threats to open its borders to allow migrants to leave for European nations as it feared a new migration flow from Syria’s Idlib province. The Greek border saw violence as Greek forces pushed back on migrants leaving Turkish border gates. As COVID-19 spread across Europe and a fragile cease-fire was achieved in Idlib, Turkey closed its borders again and dispersed the migrants.
The Associated Press