Turkey’s halt of activities welcomed
The announcement on Tuesday by Turkey that it will suspend research for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean in an area located within the Greek continental shelf, pending talks with Greece, was seen as result of ongoing trilateral contacts between Berlin, Athens and Ankara.
“Our president said that ‘since these negotiations are continuing, we should see what happens and put [exploration] on hold for awhile’,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk.
“Once these negotiations continue, let us look ahead, let us be constructive and let us wait for awhile. The basic principle of our president here is that we are always one step ahead of the negotiations,” he said.
A crucial date in the month ahead is August 27-28, when the Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers is scheduled to take place. This date is seen as pivotal as Ankara assumes that, by this time, possible European Union sanctions against Turkey over its violations will have been elaborated at a technical level and the issue of political decisions will be raised.
According to reports, Germany’s crucial contribution to de-escalating tensions is related to these sanctions, suggesting that the contacts between the diplomatic advisors of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Kalin appear to be producing results.
For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias welcomed Kalin’s statement “a positive development.”
“The Greek government has always said, and continues to say, that the necessary condition for dialogue is the de-escalation on the part of Turkey,” he said after a meeting with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya in Athens.
However, in order to presumably show that Ankara is not in retreat, Kalin announced shortly after his statements, that the Barbarossa vessel will conduct research in an area that extends into plots 2 and 3 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
He made it clear that Ankara wants joint exploitation of Cyprus’ natural resources between its internationally recognized government and the Turkish Cypriots.
“We shouldn't limit this to Cyprus, but to the entire Eastern Mediterranean, to set it as a principle, so tomorrow, when the political conditions mature, we can do similar work with Israel or Egypt,” he said. He added that “right now there is room for dialogue” on all bilateral issues with Greece.