On September 18th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey was prepared to meet with Greece’s leadership and reach a solution to the escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Could there be a meeting with Greek Prime Minister (Kyriakos) Mitsotakis? What’s essential is what we discuss and in what framework,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.
“We can meet if there is goodwill. We can talk via videoconference or meet in a third country,” Erdogan said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Greek Ambassador Michael-Christos Diamessi had been summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara over an item in the Dimokratia newspaper.
The controversial headline – telling “Mr. Erdogan” to “f**k off” in Turkish, with the insult translated into English with an asterisk below appeared in September 18th’s issue.
The headline also prompted a reaction from the Greek Foreign Ministry, which said in an announcement that freedom of the press “does not negate the obligation to refrain from insulting the personality of any individual, particularly a foreign leader.”
“The use of offensive language is contrary to our country’s political culture and can only be condemned,” the ministry added.
At the centre of the Greece-Turkey dispute was Ankara’s deployment last month of a seismic research vessel, the Oruc Reis, and an accompanying fleet of warships near the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
Turkish officials ended the month-long mission and ordered the vessel back to shore over the September 12/13 weekend for maintenance and replenishment.
Erdogan also signalled Oruc Reis would return to its work, while also saying its withdrawal was deliberate.
“If we pulled Oruc Reis back to the port for maintenance, it has a meaning,” he said.
“It means: ‘Let’s give a chance to diplomacy, let’s show a positive approach.'”
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Prague said Greece believed “a dialogue should start and that international law should not be violated. Of course in this area nobody should try to prevail by force”.
He added Greece was “always open to a dialogue with Turkey as regards coastal waters in the exclusive economic zone, provided that Turkey stops its provocative acts in the area”.
The Oruc Reis being pulled back is seen as a positive step by Greece, however, Turkey’s Yavuz drillship, meanwhile, will continue its search for oil and gas off Cyprus until October 12 despite international calls to withdraw.
EU leaders are due to discuss possible sanctions against Ankara at their meeting on September 24-25.
“We would like our partners and friends in the EU to draft a list of sanctions which should not be imposed on Turkey immediately but rather serve as an example of sanctions that could be imposed on Turkey if it doesn’t stop its unlawful acts,” Dendias said.
Speaking at an online panel, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the Oruc Reis’ return to Antalya was an opportunity to advance talks and this “should not be squandered,” adding that Ankara hopes this will be “reflected positively” at a European Union summit on September 24-25.
“We want to see a new page turned in the relations between Turkey and Greece, but also in relations between Turkey and the EU,” Kalin said.
“We are hopeful, we believe the climate is conducive to that at the moment and we have, I think, reached an understanding with regards to which steps we need to be taking over the next few weeks to resume these talks,” he said.
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