– Greece is willing to enter dialogue with Ankara once “provocations” stop to de-escalate recent tension in the Eastern Mediterranean over maritime borders, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday, welcoming the return to Antalya of Oruc Reis, the Turkish seismic survey vessel which had been conducting research in a disputed area.
“It is a positive first step. I really hope there will be more to come. The end of provocations will be the beginning of dialogue. Greece is always ready to sit around the table,” he said, referring to exploratory talks with Turkey over an agreement on the delimitation of maritime borders which stopped in 2016.
Oruc Reis has returned to the southern province of Antalya, state-run TRT broadcaster reported Sunday, adding that it anchored off the Gulf of Antalya on Saturday night.
In August, Turkey dispatched Oruc Reis and two auxiliary navy vessels to the disputed region near the Greek island of Meis, also known as Kastellorizo, prompting the Greek claims that the sea area lies within its continental shelf.
The military delegations from Turkey and Greece met in NATO’s headquarters on Thursday after NATO’s secretary-general initiated de-confliction talks between the two NATO member states.
During a press conference held in the context of Thessaloniki Helexpo forum in northern Greece, Mitsotakis said he was open to a meeting with the Turkish president for dialogue in good faith.
Greece does not intend to enter an arms procurement race with Turkey, but will make only the absolutely necessary purchases, he stressed, responding to a question relating to his announcement on Saturday during the same forum.
Regarding Greece’s largest refugee camp Moria that was destroyed in a huge fire earlier this week, the prime minister said he has requested the European Union (EU) for more involvement in the management of the new reception and identification center that is to replace Moria and for more actions from EU partners to show solidarity with Greece.
Greece cannot shoulder disproportionate burdens, he repeated. More than one million people have reached the country from Turkey since 2015. Most continued the journey to other European countries until the closure of borders along the Balkan route in the winter of 2016. Currently 100,000 people are stranded in Greece.
Talking about the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions on the economy, Mitsotakis reiterated optimism, but ruled out the prospect of a second full nationwide lockdown after the one imposed in spring for over a month to control the spread of the virus.