ATHENS (Reuters) – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday Greece would start talks with Turkey to resolve a row in the Eastern Mediterranean once Turkish “provocations” ceased.
He spoke a day after NATO said the allies had agreed to launch technical talks to avoid any accidents in the region.
Tensions escalated last month after Turkey sent a seismic survey vessel for hydrocarbon exploration in disputed waters in the region after a maritime deal between Greece and Egypt.
Turkey says that deal scuttled talks with Greece under German mediation, and that it infringed on its own continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Greece and Turkey had agreed to technical talks “to develop mechanisms for “de-confliction” at sea, and they were under way, but Mitsotakis appeared to attach conditions.
“(Our country) can and wants to discuss the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean Sea, in the eastern Mediterranean, based on international law. But not under threats,” he said during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi.
“Let the threats go for talks to begin,” Mitsotakis said.
“Once the provocations end, discussions will begin,” he said, adding that Greece’s foreign minister would deliver a letter from him outlining Athens’ case to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres when the two meet in New York on Friday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias had rejected an offer by Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, to meet without preconditions after he had agreed to such a meeting.
Turkey has said it supports NATO’s initiative and that the talks were not about solving bilateral issues but about measures so far handled by the two countries’ militaries. It said Ankara expected Greece to do the same, but Greek diplomats said Turkey needed to de-escalate its activity in the region first.
Cavusoglu responded: “If Greece thinks meeting with us is a favor and that we have to abandon all our rights to be able to meet with them, this will not happen.”
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Heinrich)