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Iran Press TV

Greece rejects talks until Turkey withdraws ship from Mediterranean

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 13 October 2020 3:31 PM

Greece says it has no plans to hold talks with Turkey on defusing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean unless Ankara withdraws an energy research ship from the disputed areas.

Turkey and Greece, both of them NATO members, have long been at loggerheads over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions escalated in August as Turkey dispatched the seismic research vessel, Oruc Reis, and warships escorting it to prospect for energy resources in an area in the sea that is disputed with Greece, infuriating Athens. Turkey ended the mission of those vessels and ordered them back to shore for maintenance work and as a gesture toward rapprochement in mid-September.

The Turkish navy announced late on Sunday that the Oruc Reis would restart activities in the contested waters.

"Greece will not sit at the table for exploratory talks while the Oruc Reis and escorting warships are out there," Greece's Minister of State George Gerapetritis said in an interview with national radio, Parapolitika, on Tuesday.

Gerapetritis added that Athens would "emphatically" raise the dispute at a European Council meeting starting on Thursday.

The announcement on Tuesday dashed hopes raised over an agreement struck between Turkey and Greece last month to begin exploratory talks, following diplomatic efforts led by Germany to ease tensions.

The talks had been stalled since 2016 and the expectation was for their resumption in the Turkish city of Istanbul, but no exact date was specified.

US, Germany urge Turkey to end 'provocation'

Earlier in the day, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Turkey to refrain from "provocation" in the eastern Mediterranean after Ankara said would redeploy the seismic research ship to the contested waters.

"Ankara must end the interplay between détente and provocation if the government is interested in talks, as it has repeatedly affirmed," Maas said in Berlin, ahead of his flight to Greece and Cyprus.

The top German diplomat also urged Turkey to remain open to talks and not to resume gas exploration in the region.

Meanwhile, the United States also accused Turkey of fueling tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and called on Ankara to stop its "calculated provocation" over a gas dispute in the region.

"We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

"Turkey's announcement unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between our NATO allies Greece and Turkey," she said. "Coercion, threats, intimidation and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean."

The US State Department spokeswoman also called on Ankara to withdraw the vessel and begin talks with Greece at once.

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