Turkish foreign finister urged Germany to be “an honest broker” and not always side with Athens in disputes between Türkiye and Greece.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made the comments during a tense news conference on July 29 with his visiting German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, where the two volleyed grievances back and forth, including over Türkiye’s plans for a new military incursion into Syria and its human rights issues.
“Germany has acted as an honest mediator in the past. It had a balanced attitude, but lately, we see that this balance is unfortunately being lost,” Çavuşoğlu said, accusing Berlin of falling for “Greek propaganda.”
Baerbock met with Çavuşoğlu in Istanbul after holding talks with officials in Greece, where she criticized Türkiye for disputing the sovereignty of Greek islands near its coastline. She also urged Greece to make sure it stamps out any illegal pushbacks of migrants at the border.
NATO neighbors Türkiye and Greece have been at odds for decades over sea boundaries, related drilling rights and the war-divided island of Cyprus, disputes that have brought them to the brink of war on several occasions.
“Yes, many questions of international law are complicated, but some are also very simple. Greek islands? Lesbos, Chios, Rhodes and many, many others are Greek territory, and no one has the right to raise questions over that,” Baerbock told reporters after holding talks in Athens with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
Turkish officials says the sovereignty of eastern Greek islands can be disputed if it keeps a military presence there in violation of its treaty commitments. Athens disputes that view and has accused Türkiye of carrying out frequent military overflights at its islands in the eastern Aegean Sea.
In both Greece and Türkiye, Baerbock suggested that the NATO members should concentrate their efforts on supporting Ukraine, and singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s aggression.
“For me, it is clear that we must solve conflicts between NATO partners in dialogue. Disputes in the ranks of the alliance are exactly what the Russian president wants,” she said in Athens. “That includes respecting each other’s sovereignty.”
Çavuşoğlu said Türkiye wanted Germany to adopt the same “balanced and trusted” attitude displayed by former Chancellor Angela Merkel who had mediated between Ankara and Athens in the past.
As the two ministers exchanged grievances, Baerbock spoke out against Turkish plans to launch a new military offensive in northern Syria to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers to be a threat to its security.
“The suffering of Syrians would once again worsen with a renewed military confrontation,” she said, adding that the incursion could help ISIL “gain a foothold” in Syria.
Çavuşoğlu responded: “When our allies tell us they understand Türkiye’s (security) concerns, we don’t want it to be through words only. We expect them to support Türkiye’s legitimate fight (against terrorism).”
The German minister was also critical of a Turkish court ruling that convicted philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison, despite rulings by European Court of Human Rights that had called for his release. Çavuşoğlu said he “would have had more respect” for Baerbock’s opinion if she had also criticized Greece, whom he accused of failing to respect ECHR rulings regarding Muslim minorities in Greece.