Foreign ministry spokesperson Alexandros Papaioannou on Thursday outlined the nature and content of the upcoming exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, during a press briefing held three days before the start of the 61st round of talks in Istanbul.
"They are not negotiations, they are talks, there are no obligations or agreements between the two sides and there are no minutes. There is no briefing on the content of the talks," he clarified.The spokesperson also made it clear that there will be no discussion on the demilitarisation of the islands during the exploratory talks, nor any negotiation of matters that impinge upon Greece's national sovereignty, while underlining that Greece's position is based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.Papaioannou emphasised that the talks are unofficial, confidential and non-binding, and are held in order to sound out possible areas of convergence for the purposes of any future negotiations on delineating the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, always in accordance with international law. If there is no agreement in possible negotiations that may follow the exploratory talks, he noted, both sides must agree on an arbitration agreement that will be submitted to The Hague.In this context, he expressed Athens' view that if the talks are held in good faith, this can lead to a de-escalation of tension, adding that Greece is going to the 61st round in good faith and in a spirit of cooperation.Papaioannou went on to brief the press on Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias' schedule, saying that the minister will on Thursday have meetings with the Ambassador of Norway and the Ambassador of Portugal in Athens, Helena Paiva, while that he will probably speak on the phone with his German counterpart Heiko Maas within the day, at the request of the German side.On Friday, Dendias is scheduled to meet with the Ambassador of Germany to Greece.The following Monday and Tuesday, Dendias is due in Brussels for the EU's Foreign Affairs Council, where he is to hold a series of meetings with top EU officials on the sidelines of the council meeting. On Monday, he is to meet with the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi, with the Executive Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis, with European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. On Tuesday, he will meet with his Belgian counterpart, Sophie Wilmes, and afterwards with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.On Wednesday, Dendias will receive the new Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and UAE to Greece.Next Thursday he will meet with the Italian Ambassador and with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Alexander Grushko, before departing for Sarajevo next Friday for meetings with the political leadership of Bosnia-Herzegovina.The week after that, Papaioannou said, the foreign minister is planning a trip to London for a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and may then head to Dublin, while a visit to Israel is scheduled on February 4.