Greece announced Tuesday that it will hold talks with Turkey for the first time since 2016, at a time of intensifying efforts to reduce tension between the two members of NATO in the eastern Mediterranean region. The Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “Greece and Turkey have agreed to hold … exploratory talks in Istanbul soon.”
The Turkish presidency had said Tuesday that Ankara and Athens were ready to start “exploratory talks” on their differences in the eastern Mediterranean.
During a video conference that brought together Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Council President Charles Michel, the participants confirmed, according to the Turkish Presidency’s statement that “Turkey and Greece are ready to start exploratory talks” regarding the eastern Mediterranean, where the two countries are fighting over areas likely to be rich in natural gas.
During the meeting, Erdogan stressed, according to the statement, that “the momentum aimed at reducing tension and using dialogue channels must be accompanied by mutual measures.”
On Friday, the Turkish president expressed his readiness to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis if “good intentions” were available on his part in the crisis facing countries in the eastern Mediterranean.
The last round of “exploratory talks” to resolve their differences in the region took place in 2016. Turkey and Greece, members of NATO, are fighting over gas and oil fields in the eastern Mediterranean in an area that Athens considers being within the scope of its sovereignty.
On August 10, Turkey sent a seismic vessel, accompanied by warships, to waters between Greece and Cyprus.
Tensions escalated in late August when the two countries held parallel military exercises. The crisis was on the agenda of a European summit this week, but the meeting was postponed to the first and second of October, after the discovery of infection among European Council President Charles Michel.
Several countries, especially France, threatening to impose sanctions on Turkey. To support their demands in the disputed areas in the Mediterranean, Turkey and Greece have signed in recent months controversial border demarcation agreements, the first with the Libyan Government of National Accord based in Tripoli and the second with Egypt.
The US ambassador to Ankara confirmed during a meeting with reporters Tuesday that “any unilateral map or declaration that affects the rights of a third party is not valid within the framework of the settlement of a maritime dispute.”