Turkey and Greece discuss coronavirus, potential border opening in rare phone call amid ongoing tension

Turkey and Greece discuss coronavirus, potential border opening in rare phone call amid ongoing tension
Turkish and Greek leaders discussed the potential of opening borders as well as the Covid-19 outbreak on Friday, in a rare call despite tensions.
2 min read
27 June, 2020
Erdogan and Mitsotakis had a phone call [Getty]
The leaders of Greece and Turkey put increasing tensions aside and held a rare phone conversation in order to discuss the potential opening of borders and coronavirus measures as Europe slowly opens.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday spoke about ways to handle the pandemic, as well as reopening borders and establishing tourist flows, a statement from Mitsotakis’s office said.

The statement confirmed the two leaders “agreed to maintain bilateral channels of communication open”.

Erdogan’s office went on to add that the pair discussed tourism, security and collaborating on economic issues brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The two leaders did not discuss policy matters, a Greek source with knowledge of the meeting told the Associated Press.

They also discussed the issue of access to the European Union of nations from third countries, with Greece confirming in principle it does not object to Turkey being added to the list of countries that would have access.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have been frosty in the last couple of months over Ankara’s plans to carry out oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece described the actions of the neighbouring country as “a new provocation”.

Turkey recently announced plans to start drilling for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean in three or four months.

The move comes after Ankara signed a controversial agreement last year with Libya's UN-recognised government in Tripoli, which claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey.

The agreement has raised hackles in neighbouring countries, including Greece, which has said the deal fails to take into account the island of Crete.

EU member Cyprus has also expressed anger that Turkey has sent ships in search of oil and gas off the divided island.

The EU has repeatedly called on Turkey to end its energy exploration off the coast of Cyprus, arguing that the drilling is illegal because it infringes the island's exclusive economic zone.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in a statement that the Turkish request to carry out "petroleum explorations in the region of the Greek continental shelf is part of a series of actions by the neighbouring country which is gradually trying "to usurp the sovereign rights of Greece".

"Turkey's illegal actions... cannot match Greek sovereignty based on international law and maritime law," said Dendias, adding that Greece "is prepared to face this new provocation, if Turkey finally puts it into effect".

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