Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' comments come ahead of an EU summit on rising Mediterranean tensions. Meanwhile, Turkey has called for the "immediate" disarmament of Chios island in the Aegean Sea.

Turkey's Oruc Reis seismic vessel is seen at the port of Antalya where it docked after seismic exploration and research activities for supply and maintenance. September 15, 2020.
Turkey's Oruc Reis seismic vessel is seen at the port of Antalya where it docked after seismic exploration and research activities for supply and maintenance. September 15, 2020. (AA)

Greece has said it is ready to enter exploratory talks with Turkey "immediately" on maritime zones as Ankara issues a new naval communique accusing its neighbour of violating the non-military status of an Aegean Sea island. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday that talks could cover all disputes if Ankara ended its "provocations" in the region, commenting ahead of an EU summit on September 24 to 25, which will discuss eastern Mediterranean tensions,

Earlier the same day, Turkey called for the immediate disarmament of Chios via a Navtex. Turkey, in the maritime communique, accused Greece of violating the non-military status of Chios island as determined by 1923 Lausanne Treaty.

Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over maritime zones in the eastern Mediterranean which are potentially rich in natural gas.

READ MORE: What is a NAVTEX and why did Turkey issue one to Greece?

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country has been proposing to restart exploratory talks with Greece.

"Exploratory talks actually cover all disputed issues between Turkey and Greece ... the previous government (in Greece) ... didn't want to actually restart. And this government also has not been willing to restart the exploratory talks, so we have to make an agreement," Cavusoglu said. 

The EU has said it is drawing up potential sanctions against Turkey if dialogue does not begin.

READ MORE: Turkey expects EU to be ‘honest broker’ in eastern Mediterranean

EU urges solution

The EU's diplomatic chief said relations between the bloc and Turkey were at a sensitive turning point and urged leaders to decide on the way forward.

Josep Borrell delivered his warning as tensions rise with Turkey over energy interests in the eastern Mediterranean that have even sparked fears of military conflict.

"Relations with Turkey are ... at a watershed moment in history and ... will go one side or the other, depending what's going to happen in the next days," Borrell told a session of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The head of European diplomacy pleaded for more dialogue with Ankara, even though he acknowledged that "the situation has worsened".

"The time has come for our leaders to take difficult decisions" at the EU summit, he said.

READ MORE: US urges diplomatic, peaceful resolution in eastern Mediterranean

The latest standoff began after Turkey deployed the Oruc Reis research vessel and warships to contested waters on August 10 and prolonged the mission three times.

Greece responded by shadowing the Turkish flotilla with its own warships, and by staging naval exercises with several EU allies and the United Arab Emirates in its own show of force.

A possible sign of appeasement was that Turkey had ordered the Oruc Reis back to port, Borrell said, even though Ankara said this was for maintenance. The break in exploration might give EU diplomats a window to launch negotiations between Greece and Turkey.

The escalating row has seen Germany try to mediate a solution and NATO host consultations aimed at avoiding the two alliance members accidentally going to war – as they almost did over a few contested islands in 1996.

The EU has said third countries might be invited to talks aimed at easing the tensions between Greece and Turkey.

European Council President Charles Michel said while visiting Athens that he was hopeful a commitment for talks would be made soon and that a negotiating process involving several countries could help facilitate an agreement. 

“We are discussing the idea of a multilateral conference because, beyond bilateral dialogue, there is probably the need to bring the different countries to the table in order to deal with the different issues,” Michel said. He did not elaborate.

Germany, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency and launched an effort in July to broker direct Greek-Turkish negotiations, is a likely candidate to participate if the discussions are broadened.

Ties with Turkey will be a main topic at next week's EU summit with France backing Greece and Cyprus on the possibility of sanctions against Ankara.

"There is not yet an agreement on sanctions," Borrell said. 

A decision on sanctions would require unanimity among the 27 member states.

READ MORE: What is at stake in the eastern Mediterranean?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies