The foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey clashed on a wide range of issues during a press conference in Ankara on Thursday, Anadolu has reported. Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu opened the discussion with what appeared to be very positive comments to the effect that he believes that the disputes with Greece can be resolved through constructive dialogue, especially on refugees and the Eastern Mediterranean issue.
“It is in our interests that minorities in both countries live in peace,” explained Cavusoglu. “It will have a positive impact on our relations.”
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, however, used his opening remarks to rattle off a series of longstanding complaints about Turkey. These included its search for natural gas in contested waters and its treatment of the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey, as well as the ongoing dispute about migrants.
“Greece’s position is clear and this is not the first time you have heard it,” Dendias told Cavusoglu during a particularly heated moment in the 35-minute exchange.
“If you accuse my country and people in front of the media, I have to be in a position to respond to it,” replied Cavusoglu. “If you want to continue our tensions, we can. If we go into mutual recriminations here, we have a lot to tell each other.”
Accusing Turkey of not abiding by its 2016 agreement with Brussels to accept migrants seeking refuge in Europe, Dendias said that, “Turkey should not teach Greece any lessons.”
Last week, Athens accused Ankara of trying to provoke it by attempting to push boats carrying migrants into Greek waters. The Turkish government rejected this allegation, and added that Turkey rescued 231 migrants in seven incidents last Friday alone.
With regard to Turkey’s Greek Orthodox minority, Cavusoglu said: “You don’t allow the Turkish minority (in Greece) to call themselves Turkish. You call them Muslims. If they call themselves Turkish, they are Turkish; you have to recognise this.”
Dendias also expressed Greece’s displeasure that Turkey converted the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque last year.