Foreign ministers from across the EU will convene for an informal two-day “Gymnich” meeting in Berlin today.
The ministers are certain to discuss the tense standoff between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. Beginning as a dispute over Turkish natural gas exploration in Greek waters near Cyprus, warships from both nations now patrol the area, prompting France and Egypt to extend support to Greece. German has sought to remain neutral and has offered to arbitrate the squabble. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accepted this offer in theory, but not without Greece accepting preconditions first.
Greece has also dug its heels in while agreeing in principle to negotiations. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has denounced Turkey’s recent moves as part of Erdogan’s alleged “neo-Ottoman” ambitions to project power throughout the Mediterranean. Expect the ministerial summit to showcase French and German differences on how to deal with Turkey’s behaviour. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will warn about the dangers of escalation and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian may argue that Turkey must be deterred from infringing on Greek sovereignty in order to prevent further instability in the region.
Even if a framework for negotiations is accepted today, a shared Greco-French insecurity about Turkish expansionism is likely to complicate the proceedings.
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James is an analyst on the Current Developments Team, where he specialises in European and Indian politics. He is a regularly contributor to the Daily Brief