Status: 07/29/2022 3:05 p.m.
With her visit to Turkey, Federal Foreign Minister Baerbock is actually still facing the difficult stage of her trip abroad. But even in Greece, well-known points of contention are causing tension.
During her visits to Greece and Turkey, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also wants to promote unity within NATO – especially in view of the Russian war against Ukraine. But even in Athens – the first leg of her journey – the Green politician clearly felt the decades of tension between the two current alliance partners, Greece and Turkey, and had to come to terms with the criticism herself.
Nikos Dendias, the Greek Foreign Minister, denounced German arms exports to Turkey, especially the export of submarines. In fact, since 2004, Germany has delivered warships or components for them worth billions to Turkey. “With these submarines, there is a great danger that the balance of power in the Mediterranean will be thrown off balance,” Dendias warned, and in the same breath accused Turkey of effectively threatening his country with war.
Baerbock assures Greece of solidarity
The conflict between Turkey and Greece has been simmering for decades. On the one hand, the two countries are quarreling over possible natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan only announced on Tuesday that he wanted to resume controversial drilling of the resource. On the other hand, Turkey doubts the course of the border off the Turkish coast and therefore the territorial attachment of several islands to Greece.
On this last point, Baerbock was clearly behind Greece. “The Greek islands are Greek territory and no one has the right to question that,” stressed the Federal Foreign Minister. And she will take this message with her to Istanbul, where she wants to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Baerbock stressed that the federal government would leave no doubt about its solidarity with Greece and its defense of the European family.
But the Minister of the Greens is also campaigning for Greece and Turkey to resolve their conflict through a common dialogue. This should go without saying between NATO allies and is all the more urgent in the context of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Because “the dispute in the ranks of the alliance is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin wants.
Hoping for the ring exchange
In order to support Ukraine, the federal government is aiming for a so-called exchange of rings with Greece. Germany is also in negotiations with other countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These countries are supposed to deliver Soviet-designed military equipment to Ukraine, since their soldiers are trained in the use of this equipment. Germany would then have to fill the gaps that appeared in the arms stocks of the supplying countries. In the case of Greece, German Marder infantry fighting vehicles are supposed to compensate for the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles delivered to Ukraine.
But the exchange of rings falters – Greece insists on delivering its armored personnel carriers only when the tanks have arrived from Germany. Baerbock was still optimistic in Athens that he could soon be exchanging rings: “I think we are on the right track here.” There have already been mutual visits to inspect the tanks and Ukraine is already involved in the negotiations.
Again no to reparations payments
While Baerbock hopes for a quick agreement with the Greek government on the exchange of rings, the Federal Foreign Minister has persisted on another point. Dendias repeatedly demanded reparations for the destruction caused by German soldiers in his country during World War II. A Greek parliamentary commission estimates the amount of these war damages at at least 289 billion euros.
But Baerbock is sticking to the line that the grand coalition represented before its own traffic light coalition: the matter is legally closed, Greece is not entitled to reparations payments. On the other hand, Baerbock was open to supporting projects serving the culture of remembrance, as well as social and medical support for survivors of the World War. Baerbock had already stressed during a visit to the Holocaust memorial in Athens yesterday: “We know that we are responsible for our own history, and that has no end for us.”