Greece says high-level talks between aides to Turkish President Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis raise the possibility of direct engagement between the leaders over the eastern Mediterranean maritime zone conflict.

Flags of NATO member countries are seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Flags of NATO member countries are seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. (Francois Lenoir / Reuters)

Greece and Turkey have resumed high-level political contacts to try and de-escalate a row over offshore energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Stelios Petsas, the Greek government spokesman, said on Thursday that direct contacts restarted after Turkey called to port a warship-escorted survey vessel at the weekend from an area where Greece claims exclusive rights to potential undersea gas or oil deposits. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier said the docking of Turkey's Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel for maintenance does not mean its operations in the eastern Mediterranean are done.

The discussions, Petsas said, were taking place between aides to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Allies of the two NATO members have warned that the standoff and rival military build-ups in the area — between Greek islands, Turkey’s southern coast, and Cyprus — had increased the risk of a military confrontation.

The European Union is due to consider a list of potential sanctions against Turkey next week. 

Both sides have indicated each is open to negotiations without preconditions.

Petsas said that direct communication between Mitsotakis and Erdogan was possible ahead of the September 24-25 EU meetings.

READ MORE: What are some of the major issues between Turkey and Greece?

Turkish, Greek militaries hold deconfliction talks

Also on Thursday, Turkish and Greek military delegations  held a fourth round of talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the hope to lower tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region. 

The technical meeting was planned after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, according to the Turkish Defence Ministry.

An initial technical meeting was held on September 10.

The delegates are discussing a document that urges both sides to recommit to NATO’s principles, particularly Article 1, that states NATO members should try and resolve all disputes between other NATO allies peacefully without the threat or use of force, TRT World's Melinda Nucifor reported.

Greece has disputed Turkey's current energy exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.

Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, has sent out drillships to explore energy on its continental shelf, citing that Ankara and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.

Turkey says dialogue about fairly sharing resources will be a win-win for all sides.

"A 24-hour line of communication could be opened between the Turkish and Greek military facilitated by a safe NATO channel to ensure no mishaps happen in the area," she said.

READ MORE: Why Turkey and Greece have so many differences

Turkey blasts EU Parliament resolution 

Meanwhile, Turkey blasted an "unrealistic" resolution by the European Parliament against Ankara on the ongoing row in the eastern Mediterranean. 

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the advisory decision, which was adopted in the European Parliament solely for the sake of solidarity among the EU members and serving the "selfish" interests of some member countries, is "unacceptable" in many ways. 

The Parliament's biased and unjust attitude, as well as its invalid and one-sided interpretations of maritime law for which it is not authorised, has damaged its reputation, the statement added. 

The statement underlined that neither the European Parliament, nor the EU, nor its member states have the authority to determine the borders of third countries. 

READ MORE: Turkey extends operations in eastern Mediterranean until mid-October

Ongoing standoff 

Turkey believes that the EU unfairly backs Greece in a maritime dispute that stretches back decades but which gained added importance with the discovery of large natural gas deposits in recent years.

The standoff appeared to be cooling off when Turkey's Oruc Reis research vessel and its accompanying fleet of warships ended their month-long mission in the area and pulled back to shore last weekend.

But Turkey stressed that the vessel was only undergoing planned maintenance and would soon continue its exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The Turkish navy on Tuesday also announced the extension of the Yavuz drill ship's stay in contested waters until October 12.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies