Greek Prime Minister offers 'de-escalation' if Turkey eases off in Eastern Mediterranean

WION Web Team
Athens, Greece Updated: Aug 27, 2020, 07:59 AM(IST)

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (File photo) Photograph:( Reuters )

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Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said Turkey was ready for talks with Greece without any preconditions.

Athens is ready for a "significant de-escalation" in the Eastern Mediterranean provided Turkey halts its "provocative actions", Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday.

Mitsotakis made the comments during a phone call with US President Donald Trump, as the row between the two neighbours over gas and maritime borders ratcheted up another notch.

Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said Turkey was ready for talks with Greece without any preconditions.

"We are in favour of negotiations for fair sharing but nobody should lay down preconditions. This cannot happen with preconditions laid down by Greece."

Also read: Mediterranean row: Turkey says ready for talks with Greece without 'preconditions'

Greece and its EU allies held war games in the Mediterranean Wednesday while Turkey conducted drills with the US navy nearby, as the row between the two neighbours over gas and maritime borders ratcheted up another notch.

The convergence of a growing number of warships on an energy-rich but disputed patch of sea between Cyprus and Crete came as NATO and a host of European officials called for cooler heads to prevail.

Also read: Turkey says conducted Mediterranean exercise with US

Tensions ratched up another notch when Turkey sent the Oruc Reis research vessel accompanied by warships to disputed waters on August 10.

EU powerhouse Germany is spearheading efforts to avoid an outright military conflict that could imperil Europe's future access to newly-discovered energy reserves.

Greece's maritime claims are backed by the entire European Union, but the bloc has so far held back from heavily sanctioning Turkey, fearing possible retaliation from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Maas shuttled between Athens and Ankara on Tuesday in a bid to get the sides to temper the rhetoric and re-enter direct talks.

After both visits were over, Maas conceded that the dispute had entered a "very critical" phase.

Cavusoglu praised the German mediation effort but said Ankara made a good faith gesture by announcing a pause to its exploration activity last month.

He argued that Turkey felt it had to resume its work when Greece signed an agreement with Egypt to set up an exclusive economic zone on August 6, violating a general sense of goodwill.

On Sunday, Turkey announced a decision to extend its exploratory ship Oruc Reis's mission by an extra four days to Thursday, which prompted an immediate Greek response to carry out naval exercises nearby. 

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