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Cablegate: Turkey Ready to Re-Energize Aegean Talks, Ball In

VZCZCXRO6952
OO RUEHSL
DE RUEHAK #0057/01 0131445
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131445Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1678
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU IMMEDIATE
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000057

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2019
TAGS: PREL MOPS GR TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY READY TO RE-ENERGIZE AEGEAN TALKS, BALL IN
ATHENS' COURT

REF: ANKARA 1637

Classified By: Pol-Mil Counselor Anthony Godfrey, Reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: MFA Deputy Director General Cagatay Erciyes
told PolMilCouns on January 8 that Turkey is ready to
re-energize Aegean talks with Greece, but is still awaiting a
formal response to Erdogan's letter to Papandreou. The MFA
wants exploratory talks to resume early in 2010, and said the
Greeks have signaled an interest, but have not set a date.
Erciyes explained Turkey's break of silence related to NATO's
Peacetime Establishment Review was due to concerns about
cross-border air connectivity. He said having a single air
picture in the Aegean is important to Turkey and would help
address tensions over claims of air space violations. The
MFA is aware that direct overflights of Greek islands are
counterproductive for efforts to improve ties with Greece and
has pressed the Turkish military to minimize these maneuvers.
Erciyes, however, rejected claims that the Turks are
violating an agreement not to conduct exercises during
national holidays and maintained that the Greeks conduct far
more airspace violations than Turkey. End Summary.

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Turkey Ready to Talk Aegean
---------------------------

2. (C) MFA Deputy Director General for Maritime Affairs
Cagatay Erciyes told us that Turkey remains ready to
re-energize Aegean talks, in line with PM Erdogan's letter to
Greek PM and FM Papandreou (reftel). He reiterated that
Turkey was ready to undertake the following steps to address
differences in the Aegean: 1) re-energize exploratory talks
on the Aegean; 2) fully implement agreed-to
confidence-building measures (CBMs) and explore additional
ones; and 3) establish a code of conduct for military flights
in the Aegean (without prejudice to the legal/political
positions of either side). According to Erciyes, although
Greece provided a positive verbal response during FM
Davutoglu's meeting with Greek PM and FM Papandreou on the
margins of the December OSCE Ministerial in Athens, Ankara
has yet to receive a formal reply to Erdogan's letter.
Erciyes made clear that the Turks are ready to resume
exploratory talks early in 2010, and said that while the
Greeks have also signaled an interest, they have yet to set a
date to meet.

3. (C) Erciyes said that the GoT is feeling more optimistic
about bilateral relations with Greece following Papandreou's
electoral victory. He said that although there have been 42
rounds of exploratory talks, they did not produce progress
during the New Democracy government. Despite the optimism,
Erciyes voiced concern about signals from Greece that it
plans to appoint retired ambassador George Savvaides as the
head of the Greek delegation to the talks. Erciyes noted
that the talks had traditionally been held between the MFA
permanent undersecretaries for both sides, and said that
changing this format may be seen as giving less importance to
the talks. Erciyes reiterated the GoT position that Turkey
does not rule out any peaceful means to resolve disputes
related to the Aegean, including via the International Court
of Justice, as long as all issues are addressed and not only
the issue of the continental shelf.

Military Overflights Counterproductive
--------------------------------------

4. (C) When asked how Turkish military overflights over Greek
islands, including Farmakonisi and Agathonisi, contribute to
Turkey's push to improve bilateral relations with Greece,
Erciyes (please protect) acknowledged that the MFA views
these flights as counterproductive and has been pressing the
military to minimize these flights. Erciyes said the MFA was
able to persuade the military to suspend the flights in the
run-up to the Greek elections, and that although the
moratorium had been lifted, the military is keeping these
flights to a minimum. He urged us to "check the records,"
and expressed confidence that the numbers are much lower now
than historical norms, and asserted that the Greeks conduct
far more air space violations in the Aegean than the Turks.

Holiday Flights: Turkey Honoring Its Commitments
--------------------------------------------- ---


ANKARA 00000057 002 OF 002


5. (C) Noting that the Greek embassy in Ankara had recently
raised with him concerns about Turkish military flights in
the Aegean during Orthodox Christmas, Erciyes said Turkey is
honoring its commitment to suspend military exercises during
Greek holidays as it is one of the established confidence
building measures (CBM) with Greece. He claimed that the two
sides had agreed to suspend military maneuvers requiring
Notices to Airmen and Mariners (NOTAMs) during holidays, but
did not agree to suspend "normal activities" that would not
require NOTAMs. While acknowledging that there had been a
"gentlemen's agreement" to suspend all military flights
during holidays, Erciyes alleged that the Greeks had violated
this verbal agreement first. He said Turkey would be ready
to consider formalizing an agreement to suspend all military
flights during holidays as a new CBM.

Cross Border Connectivity
-------------------------

6. (C) Erciyes said Turkey broke silence on the NATO
Peacetime Establishment Detailed Implementation Plans over
concerns about insufficient progress toward establishing
cross border air connectivity at the NATO CAOC in Larissa,
Greece. He stated that Turkey attaches importance to having
a complete air picture of the Aegean, and called it a
confidence building measure that would help reduce tensions
over frequent claims of air space violations: "Having a
complete picture will help everybody see who is doing what."

Comment
-------

7. (C) MFA officials continue to tell us that Turkey's "zero
problems" policy applies to its relationship with Greece, and
are hopeful about improving ties with Athens during the
Papandreou administration. The Turks appear not only ready,
but eager to resume Aegean talks. In Ankara's view, with PM
Erdogan's letter to Papandreou, Turkey had taken the first
step to improve bilateral relations with Greece and the ball
is now in Athens' court to respond.

Jeffrey

"Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"

=======================CABLE ENDS=

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