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Greece: Talks with Turkey on eastern Med could restart soon

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Greece is close to resuming talks with Turkey over maritime zones, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday, after Ankara this month recalled an oil and gas exploration vessel from the eastern Mediterranean in a move welcomed by Athens.

NATO members Turkey and Greece bitterly disagree over maritime jurisdiction and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, based on conflicting views about the extent of their continental shelves.

Turkey infuriated Greece last month when it sent the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel to the area. Ankara says the boat has now been recalled for routine maintenance.

Turkey’s research vessel, Oruc Reis, rear, anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey, Sunday, September 13, 2020. Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici.

“We’re close to resuming exploratory talks, but how soon this will happen depends on both sides, on Greece and Turkey. The sentiment is good,” Petsas told reporters, adding that Ankara had also indicated its wish for a resumption of talks.

READ MORE: Turkey may resume talks with Greece, warns against EU sanctions.

The long-running discussions between Athens and Ankara on demarcating their maritime zones broke down in 2016. Greek media say they could resume as early as this week.

EU leaders are expected to evaluate the situation at a summit on September 24-25, though member states are divided over how best to proceed.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday that exploratory talks could resume but that threats of EU sanctions were not helpful.

Cyprus has pressed for sanctions against Turkey, angered by Ankara’s move last week to extend the operations of two vessels in Mediterranean waters off Cyprus until mid-October.

But, underscoring Greece’s milder tone following the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis, Petsas said on Monday the EU should examine ways to activate sanctions only if Turkey does not stick to its recent stance of de-escalation in the east Mediterranean.

U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is also due to visit Greece this month. He has said the United States is “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean and has urged a diplomatic end to the crisis.

READ MORE: Pompeo to Turkey: Immediately reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Source: Reuters.

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