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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkish, Greek FMs hold first talks since Eastern Mediterranean tensions

Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over territory and undersea energy resources [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 October, 2020

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The talks were held the sidelines of a security forum in Slovakia's capital Bratislava.

Turkey's foreign minister met his Greek counterpart on Thursday for the highest-level talks since tensions between the two NATO neighbours erupted over Eastern Mediterranean energy rights.

Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over territory and undersea energy resources for much of the year, although the two sides agreed last month to hold exploratory talks.

Turkey's top diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed "bilateral and regional issues" with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias, NTV broadcaster reported, adding that the standoff was on the agenda in the first meeting in three months.

The talks were held the sidelines of a security forum in Slovakia's capital Bratislava, with video from the Turkish foreign ministry showing the pair laughing after greeting each other.

The ministry did not give details on what the two ministers discussed.

A Greek foreign ministry source said Dendias relayed to Cavusoglu Greece's objection to this week's decision to reopen the ghost resort of Varosha in the Turkish Cypriot-controlled third of the divided island.

Varosha had been sealed off since 1974 after the Turkish invasion that year, launched in response to a Greek Cypriot coup seeking to annex the whole island to Greece.

The two ministers agreed that a date should be set for the start of exploratory talks about Varosha, the Greek source told state news agency ANA.

Tensions over natural gas rights escalated in August when Turkey sent a seismic survey ship and a small navy flotilla into contested waters near a Greek island close to Turkey's coast.

Turkey ordered the ship back to port for routine maintenance last month, but not before both sides held military drills and the European Union threatened sanctions on Ankara.  

At an event at the forum before their meeting, Cavusoglu criticised Greece's "maximalist claims" in the sea, using maps to show "there is nothing left for Turkey" if Greek demands are accepted.

The Turkish minister also repeated Ankara's consternation over a deal Athens agreed with Cairo in August to set up an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean.

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