Senior diplomats from Greece and Turkey are in touch amid recent regional tensions, and Ankara must decide whether it wants to engage with Europe or continue with unilateral action and face the consequences, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at an event Wednesday in Athens.
“I have not spoken to Mr Erdogan, but our advisers are in contact, which in my mind is important,” Mitsotakis said, referring to his counterpart, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “If we continue on the path I have said“It is very clear that I am open to starting exploratory talks very, very soon,” Mitsotakis added.
Tensions between regional rivals flared up in August after Turkey resumed gas exploration in an area where its claims are opposed by Cyprus. The country launched naval exercises and energy surveys in waters where Turkey and Greece claim both exclusive economic rights. Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have since deployed their navies in the area, and France has begun expanding its military presence there in response to Turkey’s moves.
Read more: How tensions are rising in the Mediterranean gas fields: Get it fast
Greece says the islands should be considered in determining a country’s continental shelf, in line with the United Nations Law on the Sea, which Turkey has not signed. Turkey argues that a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its continent and that the area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo - just a few kilometers off the southern coast of Turkey – falls within its exclusive area.
Read more: Here is what is at stake as Turkey-Greece tensions rise again
Turkey will always be an important neighbor but the distance with Europe seems to be widening, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in apolicy address on Wednesday. European leaders will meet September 24-25 to discuss the situation and a list of possible restrictive measures against Turkey.
Since Sunday, Turkey has withdrawn its ships from disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, a move which has been seen as a de-escalation of tensions. But Mitsotakis expressed his concern over Turkey’s decision to keep its drilling rig near Cyprus until October 12th.
“The choice is very, very clear, and I think all of us are hope that the road is a road of constructive engagement, “Mitsotakis said.
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