Greece to present proposals to ease tensions with Turkey - report

Greece is planning to present a package of proposals during talks with Turkey on confidence-building measures later this month, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported

The Greek government will recommend that the two sides implment measures including confining the two nations’ naval submarines to specific areas of the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, Kathimerini said without saying where it got the information. 

Athens will also propose a hotline between the Hellenic Tactical Air Force Command headquarters in Larissa and Turkey’s First Air Force Command in Eskişehir to allow direct communication in case of serious incidents involving the two countries’ military jets. 

The package will include measures that will enable any incidents in land border region to be resolved at local government level, Ekathimerini said. Greece started taking measures to strengthen security on its porous border with Turkey this month to curb refugee arrivals. 

The Greek side will also bring up the issue of Turkish violations of Greek air space and territorial waters, as well as Turkish overflights in the Aegean, the newspaper said. 

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos agreed on Wednesday to hold the bilateral talks on Feb. 17-21. The arrangement was made during a meeting in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO defence ministers conference, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported. 

During their meeting, Akar and Panagiotopoulos also underlined the importance of keeping dialogue channels open between the two countries, Anadolu said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said last month that Ankara was ready to revive dialogue with Greece and proposed to start a new mechanism to discuss issues related to the eastern Mediterranean.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been tense throughout 2019, as Turkey stepped up efforts to exploit the hydrocarbon reserves in the east Mediterranean by sending two drillship to the waters off Cyprus.

Greece has also strongly objected to a memorandum of understanding between Ankara and the U.N.-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli in November, which makes Turkey and Libya maritime neighbours and ignores some Greek territorial areas. 

Ankara and Athens also disagree on maritime territories and continental shelf zones in the Aegean.