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Turkey Offers Greece Sit-Down, Erdogan Says Drilling Plans Alive

Αssociated Press

Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a video conference, in Istanbul, Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

After pulling back plans to have its ships hunt for energy off the island of Kastellorizo, Turkey has offered Greece a meeting in Ankara to further defuse tension, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned right around and said drilling will proceed at some point.

Turkey’s Defense Minister  Hulusi Akar said officials from the countries will have a sit-down to “address issues that have led to rising tensions,” Turkish media reports said.

“We try to solve problems with these [kinds of] meetings. Our work continues in this direction,” was quoted as saying in pro-government Yeni Safak, with no date set.

But  Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told broadcaster ANT1 that, “Unfortunately still have not reached a point where we can say that we have even agreed to start a dialogue,” after the New Democracy government said no talks under pressure.

He said by “dialogue” he means the resumption of the exploratory discussions that were interrupted in 2016,  before Erdogan cranked up the anxiety meter again when told the state-run Anadolu News Agency that Turkey will carry out “work it has started in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.”

That was also in reference to Cypriot waters where Turkey has already been drilling in defiance of calls from the legitimate government there as well as Greece, the United States and European Union to back off.

“We will not hesitate to exercise our sovereign rights, as in the example of Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, which we reopened for worship,” Erdogan reportedly added, referring to the historic Greek Orthodox basilica he had converted from a museum.

His comments came hours after the Turkish seismic survey vessel Barbaros sailed toward Cyprus following a Turkish navigational telex (NAVTEX) reserving parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for hydrocarbon explorations.

Earlier, Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, had said that Turkey would suspend research for oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and off the coast of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, seen as a big diplomatic win for Greece.