Direct Line of Communication: Turkish and Greek Officials Connect Via Whatsapp
Informal Communication Channels Between Turkish and Greek Officials
In a surprising move, Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya has announced his participation in a Whatsapp group that includes Greek counterparts, including Greece’s Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Keridis. This move signifies an informal and direct line of communication between the officials, a development that could potentially ease discussions on migration and asylum issues.
Historical Tensions and a New Outlook
Despite being NATO allies, Athens and Ankara have been at odds for decades over numerous bilateral disputes, including conflicts over maritime boundaries, overlapping claims to their continental shelves, and the long-standing Cyprus dispute. The relationship became particularly strained when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan severed all bilateral talks with Greece after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged U.S lawmakers to block arms sales to Turkey.
However, following a series of devastating earthquakes in Turkey earlier this year, Greece promptly responded with aid, creating a new backdrop for bilateral relations. The airspace violations over the Aegean Sea have ceased since then, signaling a potential thaw in the historically tense relationship between the two nations.
Future of Greek-Turkish Relations
Despite the recent positive developments, it remains uncertain how long this Greek-Turkish thaw will last. Mitsotakis expressed optimism at a press conference after a recent meeting with Erdoğan, stating he had no reason to doubt the sincerity of Erdoğan’s intentions. He emphasized that both leaders are at the beginning of a new term, and the current momentum offers an opportunity to build a more cooperative relationship.
However, the long-standing territorial disputes between the nations remain a major obstacle to lasting amity. The amount of goodwill that Ankara and Athens can generate will dictate whether Turkey and Greece can begin to address these disputes, but for now, this remains a remote possibility.
Migration and Asylum: A Shared Challenge
One area where cooperation between the two nations could be critical is the management of migration and asylum issues. Greece, being a primary destination for irregular migrants attempting to enter Europe, has been keen to amend the 2016 migration pact signed between the European Union and Turkey. In the agreement, Turkey committed to curbing the flow of irregular migrants from its shores to the Greek islands. In exchange, the EU extended an aid package to Turkey to improve the living conditions of refugees within its borders.
The issue of renewing this deal is expected to be discussed at an upcoming meeting between senior Greek and Turkish officials. A breakthrough in these discussions could potentially lead to more effective management of migration influx, especially in the wake of conflicts like the Syrian War.
While the establishment of a direct line of communication between Turkish and Greek officials might seem minor, it signifies a significant shift in the relationship between the two nations. If this development can facilitate a more cooperative approach to shared challenges like migration, it could mark the beginning of a new era in Greek-Turkish relations. However, whether this thaw will last and lead to the resolution of more contentious issues remains to be seen.
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