Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu says his Greek counterpart is set to visit Turkey for talks on April 14 following a meeting of senior diplomats in Athens to ease long-standing tensions over Aegean and Mediterranean seas between the two NATO allies.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will pay a rare trip to Ankara next month as talks intensify on the two countries' maritime border row, his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
Dendias will visit on April 14 to try to arrange a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, adding that he would then pay a return visit to Athens.
"Dendias has been a close friend of mine for many years," Cavusoglu told reporters.
His comments came a day after Turkey and Greece concluded a new round of consultative talks in Athens about their conflicting eastern Mediterranean border and energy claims.
The talks resumed after a nearly five-year hiatus in Istanbul in January, but both sides have remained tight-lipped about any progress.
Official contacts are rare between the two members of the NATO defence alliance.
A Greek Foreign Ministry official said Dendias had accepted Cavusoglu’s invitation to visit Turkey provided the “right conditions” prevail.
Dendias last paid a personal visit to Istanbul in late 2019 and Erdogan met Mitsotakis at the United Nations earlier that year when he was serving as Greece's foreign minister.
62nd round of consultative talks is held in Athens today pic.twitter.com/8DfsZpYU8v— Turkish MFA (@MFATurkey) March 16, 2021
62nd round of talks in Athens
The announcement came after Turkey and Greece held the 62nd round of talks in the Greek capital Athens on Tuesday.
The consultative talks are focused on resolving bilateral disputes in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, including achieving fair and equitable settlements to issues in the Aegean that began in 2002.
After the latest round of talks on Tuesday, Erdogan said it was "out of the question for us to make any concessions".
The previous round of talks was held in Istanbul on January 25, which marked the first direct talks between the two countries in nearly five years after Athens suspended them following the 60th round in March 2016.
Bilateral talks continued in the form of political consultations but did not return to the exploratory framework.
NATO and the EU put pressure to resume contacts
Both NATO and the European Union have put pressure on the two countries to resume contacts after their gunboats collided while Greece was shadowing a Turkish energy exploration mission in contested waters last August.
Turkey and Greece both cite a range of decades-old treaties and international agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.
The row intensified following the discovery of large natural gas deposits in waters around the divided island of Cyprus in the past decade.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that their excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara sent several drill ships last year to explore for energy in the eastern Mediterranean, asserting its rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favour of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighbourly relations, dialogue and negotiations.