Daily Sabah – Turkey pulled back its Oruç Reis seismic survey vessel from the Eastern Mediterranean to allow for diplomacy with Greece, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday, adding that he is ready to meet with the Greek leader to discuss the disputes.
Speaking to reporters following Friday prayers in Istanbul, Erdoğan said he was ready to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in person or via videoconference to discuss tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Erdoğan added that they had informed the mediator states that Turkey had no problem meeting the Greek prime minister on the two neighboring countries’ outstanding issues, adding, “What matters is the main point of talks.”
Oruç Reis returned to waters near Turkey’s southern province of Antalya on Sunday for what Ankara called routine maintenance, a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources and maritime jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Erdoğan emphasized that the Oruç Reis will return to the mission in the Eastern Mediterranean after maintenance work is completed.
“Let’s give diplomacy a chance, let’s put forth a positive approach for diplomacy. Greece should also positively meet this approach of ours, and let’s take a step accordingly,” Erdoğan said, adding: “If we returned Oruç Reis to the port for maintenance, it also means something. But this does not mean that because Oruç Reis was pulled back for maintenance, our seismic activities will fully stop.”
Previously, Erdoğan said Thursday that Greece had finally decided to sit down at the negotiating table after seeing Turkey’s determination and firm stance in the face of blackmail and threats.
His remarks came after Turkish and Greek military delegations Thursday continued diplomatic talks to ease the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece has disputed Turkey’s current energy exploration activities in the region, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on the proximity of a number of its small islands to the Turkish mainland.
Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean Sea, has sent out drillships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting the rights of Ankara and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the region.
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