© Reuters. Turkish International Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and European Council President Charles Michel meet in Brussels
By Robin Emmott and Tuvan Gumrukcu
BRUSSELS/ANKARA (Reuters) – After a five-year hiatus marked by grievances over their rival claims to Mediterranean waters, Turkey resumes talks with Greece on Monday within the first take a look at of its hopes to reverse deteriorating relations with the European Union.
Whereas diplomats say that rebuilding belief might be a tough slog, the talks comply with Turkey’s resolution to cease its seek for gasoline in disputed waters which angered Greece and Cyprus and a cooling of rhetoric round Ankara’s wider disputes with the EU.
They may additionally pave the best way for an imminent go to to Turkey by EU leaders.
Each side say there may be political will to enhance relations, however after years of rancour over refugees, human rights, maritime claims, Turkey’s navy interventions and the divided island of Cyprus, rapprochement seems a distant prospect.
Expressing guarded optimism, EU overseas coverage chief Josep Borrell instructed Reuters he noticed a “window of alternative” however that Ankara wanted to “abandon this line of confrontation” and search dialogue.
President Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused the bloc of “strategic blindness” in the direction of Turkey, instructed EU ambassadors in Ankara this month he was prepared to enhance ties.
Diplomats say it should want greater than a shift in tone and the withdrawal of Turkey’s survey vessel from disputed waters to silence calls from some EU states for sanctions on Ankara, which EU leaders will talk about in March.
“I do not see any nice reconciliation to maneuver us off the trajectory we’re on. It’s going to take a major gesture from Turkey,” one diplomat in Brussels mentioned, including there was no motive to be optimistic.
Turkish International Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Brussels this week on a mission to keep up what he referred to as the “constructive environment” between Ankara and the EU, mentioned on Friday talks on Cyprus could be held in New York within the subsequent two months.
Erdogan’s effort to construct bridges with Turkey’s principal buying and selling accomplice comes as his authorities struggles with an financial slowdown. Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has been the primary brake on development, worldwide tensions have additionally weighed on the economic system.
Setting out a brand new financial path in November, Erdogan additionally promised reforms of Turkey’s judiciary after repeated criticism from Western allies who say the rule of regulation has eroded in Turkey after a 2016 coup try and subsequent crackdown.
Turkey has ignored a number of rulings by the European Courtroom of Human Rights calling for the discharge of the nation’s most outstanding detainees, Kurdish politician Selahettin Demirtas and businessman Osman Kavala.
Erdogan has but to spell out what measures might be taken, however has dominated out releasing the 2 males.
“How a lot Turkey will be capable of meet its expectations from the EU with out taking any (reform) steps is uncertain,” mentioned Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and head of Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and International Coverage Research.
Higher ties with Europe might also rely partly on how a lot Ankara can deal with variations with the brand new administration in the US, after Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey final month over its buy of Russian defence techniques.
A day forward of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned Washington would evaluation whether or not additional sanctions had been crucial and accused NATO accomplice Turkey of not performing like an ally.
At a summit in December the EU mentioned it could coordinate its response to Turkey with the US, which means that Ankara’s relations with Washington might be “a determinant consider Turkey’s ties with the West as a complete”, Ulgen mentioned.
Even earlier than the talks with Athens begin, the 2 sides disagree over what they need to cowl, with Greece insisting they need to be restricted to demarcating maritime territorial limits and Unique Financial Zones.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis instructed parliament on Wednesday Athens wouldn’t talk about points it thought of sovereign rights and would strategy the talks with optimism however “zero naivety”.
Greece has dominated out dialogue on different points Turkey has raised, together with demilitarization of jap Aegean islands, saying that was a problem to do with sovereign rights.
Turkey has additionally been engaged on a roadmap to normalise ties with NATO accomplice France. French President Emmanuel Macron has been a vocal critic of Turkey’s navy intervention in Libya and its problem to Greek and Cypriot maritime claims.
Erdogan in return has accused Macron of harbouring an anti-Islamic agenda and questioned his psychological state.
Turkey has appointed a brand new envoy to Paris – a former college classmate of Macron’s – and a diplomat mentioned the 2 leaders had exchanged letters by which Macron proposed a video name.
However a French diplomatic supply mentioned it was too early to contemplate that Turkey had modified its methods. Paris would work with its companions on potential sanctions till Turkey’s phrases had been met with concrete actions, the supply mentioned.