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Talking Diplomacy, Turkey Making Moves Near Greek Islands

Αssociated Press

Turkey s research vessel, Oruc Reis, rear, anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ATHENS – Greece's New Democracy government is said to be wary about the motives of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in offering exploratory talks over seas boundaries at the same time Turkey is reserving waters and demanding the demilitarization of Greek islands near its coast.

Turkey pulled back the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships from near the island of Kastellorizo – Erdogan said to give diplomacy a chance to resolve a dispute over who has rights in the East Mediterranean and Aegean.

But Turkey then immediately issued a navigational telex (NAVTEX) reserving the sea area around the Greek island Lemnos, citing alleged violations of the non-militarized status of the island set by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 – which Turkey doesn't recognize unless invoking in its favor.

The NAVTEX,, which was issued by the Izmir Station of Turkey’s Office of Navigation, Hydrography and Oceanography, will remain in place until Sept. 24 said Kathimerini, after Turkey issued a NAVTEX for off Chios.

Government spokesman Stelios Petras said  a relaunch of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey would be “a welcome step,” however adding that the European Union has already decided to impose sanctions over its illegal activity.

But he didn't disclose them as that question was due to be decided in a Sept. 24-25 European Union showdown with Turkey that was postponed after EU Council President Charles Michel had to be quarantined over COVID-19 after coming into contact with an infected security guard.

“The question is how will these sanctions be activated if Turkey does not comply given that Europe is not used to fast procedures,” Petsas told state broadcaster ERT, suggesting that nothing will happen and that the sanctions would be an empty gesture.

He said there's still a chance that Erdogan and Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis will talk on the phone after breaking off communications when Turkey kept violating Greek airspace and waters.

The EU-Turkey meeting has been postponed until at least Oct. 1-2 and Petsas said “Everything is on the table,” for penalties, apart from exempting Erdogan from any sanctions, Turkey still hoping to join the EU although that efforth has been going on for 15 years so far.