Mixed messages from Ankara after Oruc Reis’ return to port

Mixed messages from Ankara after Oruc Reis’ return to port

A day after the Turkish seismic survey ship Oruc Reis returned to port at Antalya and the expiry of a navigational telex for September 2-12, Ankara is sending mixed messages to both Greece and the European Union.

On Sunday, Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak reported that the Oruc Reis’ departure from the east Mediterranean and the decision not to extend the navtex further were the result of mediation efforts by NATO to bring Greece and Turkey to the table for talks.

Later, however, the Turkish Ministry of Energy said that the Oruc Reis’ return to Antalya was part of its routine maintenance, resupply and crew rotation schedule, and that the seismic survey ship would be going back to its assigned area of activity after these tasks were completed.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu echoed a similar position in an interview with broadcaster NTV on Monday. He also dismissed statements from Athens hailing the Oruc Reis’ departure from disputed waters as a positive sign.

“If they’d asked us, we would have told them it was for maintenance,” Cavusoglu said, commenting on statements made on Sunday by Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ comments were positive. However, as long as Greece continues not to respect our continental shelf and does not do away with the Seville Map and its maximalist designs on [Kastellorizo] and the islands, tension will persist,” he was quoted by Greek media as saying.

The spokesman for the Turkish Presidency, Ibrahim Kalin, struck a more moderate tone, in contrast, pointing to an opportunity for a diplomatic drive to break the deadlock should not be missed.

“Greece and EU countries should not squander the chance given to diplomacy and must take reciprocal steps,” he said in a post on Twitter.

“A peaceful resolution to the problems in the east Mediterranean is possible. Turkey does not have designs on anyone else’s territory, but it is determined not to allow its rights to be violated,” Greek media also reported Kalin as saying.

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