Greek FM foresees improvement in Ankara-Athens ties after 2023 polls

Ankara and Athens will see conditions that allow for improvement of ties following Turkey’s presidential elections scheduled for the summer of 2023, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Monday.

But problems in bilateral ties between the regional rivals will not disappear even if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were to lose in the polls, the top Greek diplomat told Greek newspaper Kathimerini in an interview.

Greece and Turkey have long been at odds over a string of issues, including the ethnically divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the status of Aegean islands - which Ankara maintains has been militarized by Greece - and the movement of migrants across the Aegean Sea. The neighbouring NATO allies have seen a fresh bout of tensions in recent months.

“Irrespective of the electoral result, conditions will prevail that could allow for the gradual improvement of relations” between Athens and Ankara, Dendias said.

Dendias highlighted a “nationalist upsurge” in Turkey, which he said risks spilling over to Turkish society. The Greek foreign minister referenced a controversy earlier this month over a map displayed by Erdoğan’s far-right governing ally, Devlet Bahceli, showing Greek islands as part of Turkey.

“Under different circumstances, a similar incident would be described as colorful or absurd. However, given the overall atmosphere, it is disconcerting and dangerous, particularly coming from [Erdogan’s] government ally,” Dendias said.

The map shared by Bahceli showed many of the Greek islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean, including Crete, as belonging to Turkey and draped in a Turkish flag.

“This rhetoric is not restricted to government circles but it seems to be embraced by part of the opposition. We deem that this rhetoric is partly related to the nascent polarization in Turkey ahead of the 2023 elections,” the Greek minister added, noting the same discourse was reflected in recent Turkish public surveys.

Speaking on what Athens has called Turkey’s airspace violations and overflights, Dendias said that the numbers - including 3,954 airspace violations and 136 flyovers over Greek territory between January and June - spoke for themselves.

“We truly wish for open lines of communication with Ankara. We continue to work towards constructive dialogue. We think there is a solution, and that it is achievable,” Dendias said.

Dendias’ remarks arrive as Erdoğan on Monday accused Greece of “eroding minority rights,” and “ignoring international law,” in reference to the the implementation of the Lausanne Peace Treaty since it went into effect 99 years ago.

This block is broken or missing. You may be missing content or you might need to enable the original module.