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Speaking yesterday, Stelios Petsa, deputy minister to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, criticised Mr Erdogan for issuing a NAVTEX confirming the return of the research vessel, just days after an earthquake close to the Greek island of Samos killed at least 85 people, mostly in the Turkish city of Izmir. Mr Petsa said he had registered his objections with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, pointing out that Mr Erdogan’s announcement came just days after a conciliatory exchange of messages with Mr Mitsotakis on Twitter.
Dr Alexander Kazamias, a senior lecturer in politics at Coventry University and an expert in the region, told Express.co.uk: “Turkey’s response to the Greek Prime Minister’s positive communication after last Friday’s deadly earthquake off the coast of Turkey is very disappointing.
“With his new illegal NAVTEX, Erdogan appears to have missed a good opportunity to start bilateral talks with Greece which, otherwise, his own Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, claims that Turkey is after.”
Dr Kazamias warned: “There is an increasingly unhealthy and worrying game of double-speak unfolding between Athens and Ankara.
“Both call on the other side to start talks, yet both simultaneously undermine trust in a way that makes these talks impossible.
“Although Mitsotakis has his own share of responsibility since early October it is Erdogan who has been systematically undermining the talks and reducing his East Mediterranean diplomacy to a populist game of point-scoring.
“He did it with the illegal opening of the Varosha district in Cyprus, in violation of UN Resolution 550 (1984) and with new explorations of the “Oruc Reis” near the Greek island of Kastellorizo.”
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Referring to the ongoing battle between the US President and opponent Joe Biden, Dr Kazamias added: “Perhaps he is nervous about the outcome of the US election and the possibility of Trump’s defeat, which could tilt the regional balance against him.
“But the ball is now in Erdogan’s court.
“Meanwhile, the major Western powers, especially the US, Germany, Britain and France, must carry out a far more effective mediatory role to get any bilateral talks started.
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“Anything short of that could spark a hot incident; and this is, clearly, something that is in nobody’s interest.”
The Turkish embassy in London told Express.co.uk: “It is a futile effort by Greece to voice its objections to our activities by asserting its maximalist claims after each and every NAVTEX announcement.
“Turkey continues its activities in the region within the framework of its rights stemming from international law.
“Unfortunately, Greece has abused twice the window of opportunity for diplomacy. She has refrained from engaging in a sincere and meaningful dialogue with Turkey.
“Greece preferred to maintain her confrontational position by conducting various military exercises and firing activities in and around the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the Aegean Sea, violating the demilitarised status of the Eastern Aegean islands which was established with international treaties.
The spokesman added: “Turkey is ready to cooperate with Greece and to solve the issues through dialogue.
“On the other hand, Turkey has also offered her helping hand to Greece aftermath of the earthquake on October 30.
“This offer was extended both by President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu to their Greek counterparts on the very same day.”
Greece and Turkey have a long history of fractious relations, not least in 1974 when Turkey launched an invasion of northern Cyprus, with the island remaining divided ever since.
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