Duvar English - Reuters
Turkey recalled an oil and gas exploration vessel from disputed eastern Mediterranean waters to allow for diplomacy with Greece but Turkey's work in the region is not finished, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sept. 18.
NATO members Turkey and Greece bitterly disagree over maritime jurisdiction and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and tensions flared last month when Turkey sent Oruç Reis to waters also claimed by Greece.
"Let's give diplomacy a chance, let's put forth a positive approach for diplomacy. Greece should also positively meet this approach of ours, and let's take a step accordingly," Erdoğan said in Istanbul after Friday prayers.
"This is why we did it," he added.
"But this does not mean that because Oruç Reis was pulled back for maintenance, our seismic activities will fully stop," he told reporters. "Once the maintenance period is finished, Oruç Reis will go back to its operations again and continue its work there."MEPs call on Turkey to end 'illegal drilling activities' in eastern Mediterranean
Erdoğan said he was ready to discuss the issue with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in person or via videoconference.
A day earlier, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said that Erdoğan has given a chance to diplomacy again by the return of Oruç Reis.
He also said that Turkey believes conditions are conducive to restarting talks with fellow NATO member Greece after Oruç Reis left contested waters.
Speaking at an online panel organized by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on Sept. 17, Kalın said the move "should not be squandered," adding that Ankara hopes this will be "reflected positively" at a European Union summit on Sept. 24-25.
"We want to see a new page turned in the relations between Turkey and Greece, but also in relations between Turkey and the EU," Kalın said.Management of Turkey's top East Med search vessel signed to close friend of former PM Yıldırım
"We are hopeful, we believe the climate is conducive to that at the moment and we have, I think, reached an understanding with regards to which steps we need to be taking over the next few weeks to resume these talks," he added.
On Sept. 13, Oruç Reis returned to Turkey's southern province of Antalya for what Ankara called "routine maintenance", a move Greece called a positive first step in easing tensions. The two countries began talks at NATO to avoid military accidents in the region, after a small naval collision last month.
On Sept. 16, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu said Oruç Reis' maintenance may take "a few weeks" according to the energy ministry, but added the vessel will resume its operations afterwards.Turkish main opposition deems return of Oruç Reis vessel to base 'a compromise'
EU leaders will address the issue at the summit later this month and evaluate potential sanctions. Germany wants more time for talks with Turkey while France, Cyprus and Greece demand a punitive response to Turkey.
Turkey has two exploration vessels off the divided island of Cyprus, which has long been at odds with Ankara over oil and gas drilling. Turkey recognised a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, but not the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.