Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu put Greece’s Dendias ‘in his place’, Erdoğan says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed support for Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu over heightened tensions during Thursday’s joint press conference with his Greek counterpart in Ankara.

“Çavuşoğlu put Dendias in his place,” Erdoğan said, after Friday prayers in Istanbul, state-run Anadolu agency reported.

Following Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’s accusation that Turkey had violated Greece’s sovereign rights, tensions quickly boiled over between the two ministers during the live event.

“I didn’t impune Greece in my speech,” Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said. “But in his speech Nikos Dendias made some extremely unacceptable allegations against my country.”

Çavuşoğlu’s comments started a back-and-forth between the two top officials, with the Turkish minister going on to accuse Greece of “denying the Turkishness” of the country’s Turkish Muslim minority.

Erdoğan told reporters that his meeting with Dendias had a warm tone, but Çavuşoğlu’s meeting that came immediately after saw a shift “to very different grounds”.

Çavuşoğlu’s response “could not be softer”, Erdoğan said. “It would not have suited us as a nation and as a country in any case.”

Erdoğan urged direct dealings with Greece, saying, “Let’s not put others between us as Turkey and Greece. The European Union, others, let’s not have them between us. We as two neighbouring countries have a very distinct approach due to our history, we have warm relations.”

Dendias’s visit to Turkey started on Wednesday in Istanbul, where he met with the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and visited a private Greek school.

On the second day of his visit, Dendias went to Ankara to meet with Erdoğan, and later with Çavuşoğlu, who had extended an invitation in March for the visit.

Greece and Turkey disagree on maritime boundaries and overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources. Tensions escalated in August when Turkey sent its Oruç Reis research vessel escorted by warships into a disputed area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

Athens responded by sending naval and air units to push back the Oruç Reis and conducted military drills with Cyprus and France in the area. Initial diplomatic contacts to resolve the dispute began in January.