On August 10, Turkey sent the research vessel Oruc Reis to disputed waters near a Greek island and extended the mission three times despite repeated calls from the European Union and Greece to stop.
ISTANBUL – The Turkish research vessel at the center of a dispute with Greece over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean left disputed waters where it was sent last month, according to tracking websites ships and local media, in a move that could ease growing tensions in the region.
The naval frigate-backed research vessel Oruc Reis deployed to the waters near the Greek island of Kastellorizo on August 10 and their mission was extended three times despite repeated protests from Greece and of the European Union.
Ship tracking websites marinetraffic.com and bladelfinder.com showed Oruc Reis was off the coast of Turkey near Antalya on Sunday afternoon, confirming a report from the pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak that Oruc Reis had returned to port.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the apparent departure, which has not been publicly confirmed by Turkish authorities.
“This is a positive first step … I hope there will be more,” Mitsotakis told reporters at a press conference in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
The ship’s deployment was not renewed by Turkish authorities after its scheduled mission ended on Saturday, according to submissions on the NAVTEX website where countries issue navigation warnings for military deployments.
The decision not to extend the ship’s mission was seen as “a step towards a diplomacy chance,” the Yeni Safak newspaper wrote, linking it to attempts to restart talks between Greece and Turkey, partners of Greece. NATO.
Ankara and Athens have been stranded in a row on the region’s energy resources, drawing the European Union and countries far afield, including the United Arab Emirates and war-torn Libya.
– NATO talks –
NATO said earlier this month that officials on both sides had agreed to participate in technical talks to avoid crashes between their navies.
Athens has denied that this is the case, but Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the first round of talks between the Greek and Turkish military delegations took place at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
While Turkey has repeatedly stated that it is ready for a dialogue without preconditions, Greece has said that there could only be talks once Ankara stops making “threats”.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou was in Kastellorizo on Sunday for the celebrations for the 77th anniversary of the island’s liberation, where she said Ankara was “upping the pressure” on Athens.
“We are going through a difficult and dangerous time. The Turkish rulers … are undermining the peaceful coexistence that was built over many decades by the Greeks and the Turks, who saw the sea between them not as an impenetrable border but as a passage communication. ”Said Sakellaropoulou.
At the same time, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in the Turkish town of Kas, opposite the Greek island, joined by military commanders.
Akar made no reference to Oruc Reis but told reporters that Ankara “was always in favor of dialogue and a political solution”.
Leaders from seven European Mediterranean countries met at a summit last week in Corsica where they said they were ready to support EU sanctions against Turkey over the dispute.
Any action from Brussels will be discussed at a European Council summit on September 24 and 25.
France in particular sent naval forces to join Greece’s military maneuvers.
The crisis has added to a growing list of tensions between Turkey and Europe, including over Ankara’s military intervention in Libya, its policies in Syria and the crackdown on opponents of Erdogan in his country.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “not to disturb” Turkey in the latest verbal salvo aimed at Paris.
“Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey,” Erdogan said during a televised speech in Istanbul.
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