Turkey pulls back Oruc Reis survey vessel for diplomacy with Greece: Erdogan

Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey, on September 13, 2020. (AP)

Turkey pulled back its Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel from the eastern Mediterranean to allow for diplomacy with Greece, but this does not mean Turkish operations in the region are finished, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Oruc Reis returned to waters near Turkey’s southern province of Antalya on Sunday for what Ankara called routine maintenance, a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources and maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean.

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“Could there be a meeting with Greek Prime Minister (Kyriakos) Mitsotakis? What’s essential is what we discuss and in what framework,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers.

“We can meet if there is goodwill. We can talk via videoconference or meet in a third country,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey would not be the party fleeing the table.

Erdogan also signaled that Oruc Reis would return to its work, while also saying that its withdrawal was deliberate.

“If we pulled Oruc Reis back to the port for maintenance, it has a meaning,” he said. “It means ‘let’s give a chance to diplomacy, let’s show a positive approach’.”

Read more: Contact with Turkey restarted over eastern Mediterranean crisis, says Greece

Turkey’s Yavuz drillship, meanwhile, will continue it search for oil and gas off Cyprus until October 12 despite international calls to withdraw.

Ankara’s dispute with Athens has sparked a crisis that has drawn in some EU member states, particularly France which sent vessels and fighter jets to the region in support of Greece.

EU leaders are due to discuss possible sanctions against Ankara at their meeting on September 24-25.

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Last Update: Friday, 18 September 2020 KSA 16:38 - GMT 13:38
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