President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is ready to meet with the Greek head of state to break the deadlock in energy exploration in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean.
The search for gas and oil in the region has led to a dispute that has prompted the two NATO neighbors to compete with each other for air and sea drills in strategic waters between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.
“Could there be a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister (Kyriakos) Mitsotakis? What matters is what we discuss and in what context,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday’s prayer.
“We can meet if there is good will. We can speak via video conference or meet in a third country,” Erdogan said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Greek Ambassador Michael-Christos Diamessi was invited to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara later on Friday because of a topic in the newspaper Dimokratia.
The words “F*** of Mr. Erdogan” appeared in Turkish and English next to a photo of the president in the Greek newspaper.
“A Greek newspaper had a despicable front page”, Cavusoglu said in Ankara. “We called the Greek ambassador in the ministry,” he added, quoted by the state news agency Anadolu.
At the center of the Greek-Turkish dispute was the deployment of the seismic research vessel Oruc Reis and an accompanying fleet of warships in the disputed waters off the Greek island of Kastellorizo last month through Ankara.
Turkish officials ended the month long mission and ordered the ship back ashore last weekend for maintenance and replenishment.
Erdogan also said Oruc Reis would return to work, while he also said the withdrawal was intended.
“If we take Oruc Reis back to port for maintenance, it makes sense,” he said.
“It means: “Let’s give diplomacy a chance, let’s show a positive approach”.
Meanwhile, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in Prague on Friday that Greece believes that “dialogue must begin and international law must not be violated. Of course no one should try to win by force in this area”.
He added that Greece “is always open to dialogue with Turkey on the coastal waters in the Exclusive Economic Zone, provided that Turkey stops its provocative actions in this area”.
However, the Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz will continue its search for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus until October 12, despite international calls for its withdrawal.
Ankara’s dispute with Athens has caused a crisis that has attracted some member states of the European Union, especially France, which has sent naval ships and fighter planes to the region in support of Greece.
EU leaders will discuss possible sanctions against Ankara at their meeting on September 24 and 25.
“We would like our partners and friends in the EU to draw up a list of sanctions that should not be imposed on Turkey immediately, but serve as an example of sanctions that can be imposed on Turkey if the country does not stop its illegal actions,” Dendias said.