Greece’s Defense Chief Offers Turkey Talks Over the Seas

ATHENS – With a tense standoff in the East Mediterranean between warships – two of which collided – Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos renewed the idea of discussions with Turkey over seas boundaries.

Turkey sent the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and 10 warships off the island of Kastellorizo and is claiming parts of Greece's Continental Shelf under a maritime deal with Libya no other country recognizes.

Greece responded with warships amid fears of an accidental conflict, which didn't happen even after the Greek frigate the Limnos ran into the Turkish vessel the Kemal Reis as it was moving between Cyprus and Crete.

Panagiotopoulos congratulated the Captain of the Limnos and then raised the possibility of talks again after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan abruptly ended sessions planned in Ankara when Greece signed a maritime deal with Egypt as a counter.

But the Greek defense chief said the talks are conditional on Turkey pulling back its vessels, which Erdogan said he wouldn't do, the European Union fumbling what to do about it.

A photograph made public by Kathimerini showed the damage to the right side of the stern of the Kemal Reis after the collision, reporting its Captain tried to block the Limnos, forcing the Greek ship to veer off to avoid a head-on ramming, instead hitting the rear of the Turkish ship, just missing its pump room.

In a radio with the Greek frigate’s captain, Commander Ioannis Saliaris, Panagiotopoulos congratulated him, saying: “You’re the man, Captain. Congratulations.” Saliaris responded that he had simply done his duty. 

The minister also spoke by phone with his German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, reiterating offers of dialogue with Turkey but there was no report what they concluded.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' National Security Adviser Alexandros Diakopoulos said that the Oruc Reis – amid confusion whether it had entered Greek waters – “tried” to conduct a seismic survey but stopped just short.


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