Turkey and Greece will restart talks aimed at reducing tensions between the neighbors on Jan. 25, Turkish and Greek officials announced Monday, following this summer’s dispute over maritime borders and energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
The announcement came hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu invited Greece to resume talks to resolve the disagreement and also called for a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.
Cavusoglu’s invitation follows a decision by Ankara, which is facing European Union sanctions, to turn a new page in its troubled relations with EU states.
“Today … we want to extend an open invitation to Greece,” Cavusoglu said. “We invite Greece to start exploratory talks, with the first meeting to be held in January.”
The foreign ministries of Turkey and Greece later issued separate statements saying the so-called exploratory talks would be held in Istanbul on Jan. 25. The talks would be the 61st round of a long-running negotiation process between Greece and Turkey aimed at improving often-strained relations.
The NATO allies disagree on a range of issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The two countries have been on the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s.
Tensions flared this summer after Turkey sent a research vessel escorted by warships to search for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, in an area that Greece considers to be above its own continental shelf and where it claims exclusive economic rights.
In December, the EU gave the go-ahead to extend sanctions against Turkey for its exploration of gas deposits in waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.
Earlier, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had been informed of Cavusoglu’s comments.
Mitsotakis said that while the invitation to talks had not yet gone through the official procedure, “I consider it a positive element that Turkey has expressed the will to start the process,” and said it was time to set a concrete date for the talks.
“Greece will come to the exploratory talks as soon as the date is set, also in accordance with the instructions given by the European Council itself, which are nothing other than to continue essentially where we left off in March 2016, in other words, to make progress, I hope, on the issue of defining maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.”
Cavusoglu said Dendias had turned down an invitation from Albanian Minister Edi Rama to host a meeting between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers in Tirana because of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus, but expressed hope that a meeting could be held soon in the Albanian capital.
“I hope that Greece will not turn down this opportunity,” Cavusoglu said.