Tensions appeared to ease last week, as Greek and Turkish officials had contact after Turkey temporarily withdrew the research vessel. But Ankara has extended until mid-October the stay of another drillship, Yavuz, in an area in southeastern Cyprus that lies within the island nation’s exclusive economic zone.
The Marine Traffic vessel tracking website showed a second Turkish research vessel, Barbaros, currently in service in southern Cyprus.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had pulled the surveying vessel Oruc Reis from waters claimed by Greece for maintenance in order to give diplomacy a chance. But he warned that the ship had not finished operating and would be back.
“As soon as the repair and maintenance process is completed, Oruc Reis will return to work,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president also said he was ready to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to end the military build-up and the standoff at sea, but he warned Greece against actions that could poison the climate of negotiations.
“We have no problem with meeting Mitsotakis. But what are we going to discuss, in what framework will the discussion take place, it’s important, ”Erdogan said.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Turkey’s withdrawal of its surveillance vessel and war escorts was a positive step, but Greece needs to make sure Ankara is sincere.
He said that a list of sanctions will be presented to EU leaders at the summit next week and that their implementation will depend on Turkey’s actions.
“I hope it does not become necessary to reach this point,” said Dendias.
Turkey does not recognize ethnically divided Cyprus as a state and insists that it has every right to search for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. He pledged to defend his legitimate rights to the region’s energy reserves, as well as those of the separatist Turkish Cypriots.
Cypriot officials insist the EU should not impose a ‘double standard’ by imposing sanctions on Belarus for electoral fraud and alleged police brutality, while avoiding doing so when Turkey continues its exploration at the expense of members of the EU.
Beaune said the EU could not accept Turkey’s actions and that France was “committed” to solving the problem while making its military presence felt in the eastern Mediterranean in support of its European partners.