Turkey's President Erdogan pitches for talks with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying dialogue can be held anywhere "if there is goodwill" to resolve row in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey is ready for talks with neighbouring Greece to end their row in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, adding talks can be held anywhere "if there is goodwill."
"Let's give diplomacy a chance, put forward a positive approach in diplomacy, let Greece meet our approach in a positive direction and we take a step accordingly," Erdogan told reporters after the Friday prayers in Istanbul.
"We also told them this: We're always ready to meet if there is goodwill, we can meet whether we have a meeting in a third country or through video conferencing, but we can do that."
He said that Turkey has no "trouble" meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but what is essential is "what to discuss and on what grounds to meet."
Our TCG GEDİZ Frigate successfully performed its surface and air defense fire practice under the activities of operational readiness in eastern Mediterranean Sea on 17 September 2020. https://t.co/ncibLIBA9Q— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) September 18, 2020
Turkey's energy exploration vessel Oruc Reis will return to the mission in the area after maintenance work is over, Erdogan added.
However, he added: "If we returned Oruc Reis to the port for maintenance, it also means something. Why did we do it? This is a meaningful approach."
Returning the Oruc Reis to a Turkish port does not mean "our seismic survey is stopped," Erdogan said.
Last weekend, Turkey returned the Oruc Reis, a research ship exploring energy in the eastern Mediterranean, to an Antalya port for restocking and maintenance work.
Greece has disputed Turkey's energy exploration in the region, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean, has sent out drill ships, with a military escort, to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.
EU part of deadlock
Meanwhile, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the EU does not have the authority to set or change rules or draw borders in the eastern Mediterranean.
In an exclusive interview with Britain's Channel 4 News, Akar said the EU does not contribute to the solution and has become a part of the deadlock.
On NATO's meditation efforts, Akar said although Greece is reluctant and trying to slow down the efforts to resolve the issue with preconditions, Turkey supports holding the meetings.
He said French President Emmanuel Macron is adding fuel to the fire in the eastern Mediterranean and making it harder to solve problems.
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.
EU leaders are due to discuss possible sanctions against Ankara at their meeting on September 24-25.
Also on Friday, Turkish forces carried out surface and air defence fire drills in the area.
"Our TCG [Turkish Republic Ship] GEDIZ Frigate successfully performed its surface and air defence fire practice under the activities of operational readiness in [the] eastern Mediterranean Sea on 17 September 2020," Turkey's Defence Ministry said in a tweet.
On Thursday, Athens said Greece and Turkey have resumed high-level political contacts to try and de-escalate a row over offshore energy rights in the Mediterranean.
Stelios Petsas, the Greek government spokesman, said 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.
The discussions, Petsas said, were taking place between aides to Greek PM Mitsotakis and Turkish President Erdogan.
Separately, Turkish and Greek military delegations held the fourth round of talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the hope to lower tensions.