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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey invites Greece to maritime dispute talks

Last month, EU leaders drew up a list of Turkish targets for sanctions [Corbis]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2021

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Turkey's top diplomat requested that Greece "hold the first meeting in January", while Athens said it had received no official invitation but was willing to engage in talks.

Turkey on Monday invited Greece to resume talks in the two uneasy NATO members' dispute over eastern Mediterranean borders and natural gas rights.

The offer came one month after EU leaders decided to draw up a list of Turkish targets for sanctions because of Ankara's "unilateral actions and provocations" in disputed waters near Cyprus and Greece.

The long-standing dispute escalated sharply when Turkey sent the Oruc Reis seismic research vessel and an accompanying navy flotilla on a months-long expedition in the disputed water last year.

Turkey and Greece then staged rival military exercises with regional partners and saw two of their gun boats collide in August.

The sides expressed a willingness to restart the talks without ever agreeing a timeframe as they came under increasing NATO and EU pressure last year.

"We invite Greece to hold the first meeting in January," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after meeting Turkish Cypriot foreign minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu in Ankara.

The Greek foreign ministry said it had so far received no official invitation but was willing to engage in talks on continental shelf borders and exclusive economic zones.

Cavusoglu will probably address the dispute and the new mediation efforts when he meets EU ambassadors in Ankara on Tuesday.

He is also due to visit Brussels on January 21.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has softened some of his most strident rhetoric and expressed a desire to improve relations with the EU in the past month.

His office said Erdogan told European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen over the weekend that he wanted to "turn a new page" in Turkey's relations with the 27-nation bloc.

Read also: Turkey hopes to turn 'new page' with EU: Erdogan

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