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Turkey Says It’s Open To Dialogue With Greece To End Drilling Dispute

Turkey said on Tuesday that it was open to dialogue with its neighbor Greece to end the dispute over the oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean and the right to explore them, as long as Greece is open to talking, too.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey flared up again in recent weeks after Turkey resumed drilling and exploration for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean in waters that Greece and Cyprus consider part of their territorial waters.  

After weeks of tensions and angry statements from both sides, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference on Tuesday that Turkey would be open to dialogue to solve the dispute over the eastern Mediterranean, but only if Greece is also willing to talk.

Greece is trying to provoke Turkey with its hostile attitude, Cavusoglu told the news conference, as carried by Reuters.

Turkey said on Monday that it was extending the seismic exploration through September 12, with the Turkish navy issuing an advisory saying that the Oruc Reis exploration vessel would continue to work in the eastern Mediterranean until September 12, nearly two weeks after the initial end-date September 1.

Greece reacted to this, saying that “Turkey continues to faithfully fulfill the role of troublemaker and destabilising factor in the region. It continues to ignore calls for dialogue and to escalate its provocations.”

“We call on Turkey to desist from its daily rants and to work for security and stability in the region,” the Greek ministry of foreign affairs said on Monday.

The growing rift between Greece and Turkey, who are also both part of the NATO alliance, has had the European Union (EU) consider possible sanctions on Turkey over the drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, called for dialogue last week but said that the EU could consider later this month sanctions on ships, activities, and financing related to Turkish drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.   

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on September 02 2020 said:
    If Turkey is truly open to dialogue with its neighbour Greece, then Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing mounting pressure internationally and domestic problems internally could use his country’s recent huge Black Sea natural gas discovery to announce in a goodwill gesture a freeze on exploratory activities in the disputed waters around Greece and Cyprus.

    Despite the Black Sea game-changer, Ankara seems to be pushing forward on all fronts. Erdogan's announcement comes at a time when Turkey is locked in a dispute over maritime boundaries and access to offshore hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean. Still, there is a glimmer of hope that the Black Sea gas find could lead to a de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Right now, the chances for such a shift are slim. Turkey’s more assertive diplomacy appears to be paying off, whether in Syria, Libya or in the Eastern Mediterranean. Last but not least, Turkish policymakers do not see a linkage between the two issues. But keeping all options on the table, including de-escalation, would be a prudent choice for Ankara.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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