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Iran Press TV

Turkey 'open to constructive dialog' with Greece in maritime dispute

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 17 September 2020 5:34 AM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is open to "constructive" dialog with Greece in a dispute over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Erdogan made the remark in a video-conference call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, adding, however, that his country would remain "determined" in the dispute.

Germany has been attempting to mediate between fellow-NATO members Turkey and Greece.

Erdogan told Merkel the dispute "could be resolved through negotiations… provided that a constructive approach, based on fairness, prevails," Erdogan's office said in a statement.

The Turkish president "underscored he will continue to implement a decisive and active policy with regard to Turkey's rights."

The phone conversation came ahead of an emergency meeting of European Union (EU) leaders next week, where the bloc will discuss imposing sanctions on Turkey over its search for energy in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey spiked after Ankara resumed energy exploration work in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean last month. Turkey has withdrawn a seismic research vessel from waters disputed with Greece for maintenance, but ties have remained strained.

France in particular has been assertively supporting Greece, building up military presence in the disputed area and conducting joint exercises with the Greek military.

Earlier on Wednesday, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades also said his country was ready to engage in talks with Turkey but only "without blackmail and threats."

While Turkey has withdrawn its Oruc Reis vessel from waters claimed by Greece, it has extended the operations of another ship, the Yavuz, in waters disputed with Cyprus.

Separately on Wednesday, the EU called on Turkey to remove the Yavuz from the area.

"The recent withdrawal of the research vessel Oruc Reis is an important step paving the way for a meaningful dialog between Greece and Turkey. The EU also calls for a similar decision as concerns Cyprus," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"There is an opportunity to pursue immediate de-escalation and resume dialog and negotiations, which is the only path towards lasting solutions," he added.

Also on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament that nothing could justify what she called Turkey's intimidation of Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1974 over Cyprus, which has since been divided, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot administration recognized only by Turkey and the southern two-thirds governed by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.

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