Turkish Research Vessel Leaves Contested Waters in Mediterranean
A Turkish seismic survey vessel, whose research in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean has been at the heart of a weeks-long standoff between Ankara and Athens, has returned to waters near southern Turkey – a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources.
“The return of the Oruç Reis is a positive first step, I hope there will be continuity. We want to talk with Turkey but in a climate without provocations,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters in Thessaloniki.
But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar played down the significance of the move, saying the ship had returned to shore as part of scheduled plans and insisted it did not mean Ankara was “giving up our rights there”.
“There will be planned movements backwards and forwards,” Akar told state news agency Anadolu in Antalya, southern Turkey, on Sunday.
There are no agreed maritime borders between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus in the East Mediterranean.
Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruç Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.
Turkey has said it has a legitimate claim in the area that the Oruç Reis was in while it researched hydrocarbon reserves in the region. It was stationed near the Greek island of Kastellorizo since August 10 despite concerns from Greece and the European Union.
NATO said earlier this month that both Turkish and Greek representatives have agreed to take part in technical talks to avoid accidents between their respective navies.
Greece denied these have happened, but Turkey’s defense ministry said Thursday that the first round of talks took place at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.
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