Turkey and Greece to resume talks over disputed waters

Countries will discuss territorial claims in Mediterranean Sea that brought them close to conflict last year

This handout photograph released by the Turkish Defence Ministry on August 12, 2020, shows Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' (C) as it is escorted by Turkish Naval ships in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya on August 10, 2020.  Greece on August 11, demanded that Turkey withdraw a research ship at the heart of their growing dispute over maritime rights and warned it would defend its sovereignty, calling for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to resolve the crisis. Tensions were stoked August 10, when Ankara dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo in the eastern Mediterranean.
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Turkey and Greece will this month resume long-suspended talks over territorial claims in the Mediterranean Sea that brought them close to conflict last year.

The two Nato members will meet on January 25 in Istanbul, they said on Monday.

Ankara and Athens held 60 rounds of talks from 2002 to 2016, but plans to resume talks last year floundered after disagreement over a Turkish seismic exploration vessel in disputed waters.

The ship has since returned to Turkey.

Earlier on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was inviting Greece for talks by the end of January on all issues, adding that Athens "has no excuse" because the Oruc Reis  had returned to Turkey.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said later that Athens was seeking a "fertile and productive" relationship with its neighbour Turkey, and that his government would join the talks when they were finalised.

Turkey and Greece are at odds over the extent of their continental shelves in the Mediterranean, energy rights in the region, air space and some islands in the Aegean Sea.

Their dispute threatened to become open conflict when Turkish and Greek warships collided in August as they shadowed the Oruc Reis  while it surveyed for oil and gas west of Cyprus.

Previous attempts to resume the talks had been complicated by what both sides were prepared to discuss.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it was willing to talk about demarcation of an exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf.

Ankara has said all issues between the Nato members should be discussed, as was the format before the talks were suspended in 2016.

On Monday, Mr Cavusoglu said he was ready to meet Greek Foreign Minister Niko Dendias in Tirana after Albania's prime minister offered to mediate.

He said some EU members, including Germany, which has mediated the dispute thus far, had urged Greece to engage with Turkey.

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