The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece clashed openly on Thursday evening at a joint news conference in Ankara that began with hopes of improved relations but quickly descended into acrimonious accusations from both sides.
Seeking to ease months of tensions over territorial disputes in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in the first visit by either side since their navies came close to fighting last year.
However, an initially cordial atmosphere at a media appearance following the meetings turned sour as Dendias said violations of Greek sovereignty would be met by sanctions.
“Greece’s position is clear. Turkey has violated international law and maritime law in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean,” Dendias said.
The two countries are allies in NATO but at odds over many issues, such as competing claims over the extent of their continental shelves in the Mediterranean, air space, energy resources, Turkish-occupied Cyprus, and the status of some islands in the Aegean.
Tensions flared last summer when Turkey sent a drilling ship to contested Mediterranean waters, but have eased slightly after Ankara withdrew the vessel and the countries resumed bilateral talks over their disputes following a five-year hiatus.
Having begun by offering Greek support to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and a new agenda to reset relations, Dendias accused Turkey of repeatedly sending aircraft over its territory.
Cavusoglu rejected the charge, saying: “When we get into mutual accusations, we have a lot to tell each other. If you want to continue these arguments, tensions, you can (and) we will do so as well,” he added.
However both sides said they wanted to continue to try to resolve their differences through dialogue.