Greece welcomes Turkey’s decision to freeze hydrocarbon activities

July 28, 2020

Tension between Greece and Turkey moved to a course of effective de-escalation on Tuesday, after seismic research vessel Oruc Reis docked inside the port of Antalya and Ankara announced that it pauses energy exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

“Turkey could pause energy-exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for a while pending talks with Greece,” Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Tuesday morning “as a constructive step with regards to Ankara’s relations with neighboring Athens.”

Speaking to CNN Türk, Kalin said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had requested that operations be put on hold as a constructive approach to negotiations.

“The basic approach of Germany is to take steps to reduce tensions in the Mediterranean; our approach to this is very positive,” Kalın said.

A one-month pause in drilling was possible.

Kalin noted that the dialogue option is always open with Greece and that Ankara is ready to continue talks with Athens in every topic without “pre-conditions,” as well as eager to continue negotiations regarding Cyprus issue.

Tension went high between the two neighboring countries went high after Turkey issued a NAVTEX and blocked an area south of the islands of Kastellorizo and Rhodes to conduct hydrocarbon research within the Greek continental shelf.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis threatened Turkey with crippling sanctions via the EU.

Holding the rotating presidency of the European Union, Germany intervened to ease the tension. According to officially unconfirmed reports, Berlin plans a tripartie meeting with Germany, Greece and Turkey on the issue.

Athens welcomed the withdrawal of Oruc Reis. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas described as a “positive move on the part of Turkey to freeze the vessel’s activities.

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Speaking to Skai TV, Petsas said “we have said in many ways that we want a practical de-escalation on the part of Turkey in relation to the delinquent behavior of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean in general, so the statement of Erdogan’s representative is a positive action.”

He stressed that “Greece wants to have open communication channels with Turkey and discuss the issue that has plagued both sides for decades, and that is the delimitation of maritime zones. This is an issue that needs a process to move forward.”

Regarding the next steps for dialogue with Turkey, Petsas said “the issue of the exploratory contacts that were interrupted by Turkey in 2016 is a first step if the whole process of effective de-escalation of the Turkish provocation proceeds.”

Late on Monday night, the Oruc Reis sailed inside the port of Antalya while it has been waiting off shore for orders since last week.