Greece, Turkey could work together to exploit hydrocarbon resources - Greek foreign minister

Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, said his country could work together with Turkey to exploit potentially rich hydrocarbon resources in eastern Mediterranean, an issue that has heightened tensions in the region since last year.

According to Bloomberg Dendias said in an interview during his two-day visit to Washington that Greece and Turkey could cooperate in a wide range of issues once the current dispute over gas drilling was resolved.

"There are thousands of synergies from tourism to exploitation of natural resources. You name it, it’s there,” he said.

The tensions in eastern Mediterranean escalated this month after Turkey sent its second drilling ship off Cyprus. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and claims some parts of it lie on its own continental shelf. 

Siding with Greece and Cyprus, the European Union announced this week some punitive measures against Turkey over what the bloc says Turkey’s illegal drilling activities.

“For us, it is not a question of the amount of penalties,” Dendias said in relation to EU’s measures. “It is to make Turkey understand that that is not the way forward either for us or for them or for Cyprus or for the stability in the region,” Bloomberg quoted the minister as saying. 

Turkey, the only nation to recognise Northern Cyprus, maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island. Greek Cyprus this week rejected a proposal by the Turkish Cypriot leadership to establish a joint committee on hydrocarbons to deal with ongoing disputes over oil and gas reserves.

Dendias on Wednesday met with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During their meeting, Dendias and Pompeo reaffirmed their commitment to deepening the strategic collaboration between Athens and Washington on matters affecting the region in light of Turkey’s continuous provocations, the Greek City Times said

The results of the minister's Washington visit was welcomed in Athens as an indication of deeper U.S.-Greek relations, Ekathimerini said on Friday.

Dendias also met Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who in April sponsored a bipartisan bill, the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act, which updates the U.S. strategy in the eastern Mediterranean and requires the State Department to monitor Turkey’s drilling activities near Cyprus. 

According to Kathimerini, during his meeting with Greek foreign minister, the senator slammed Turkey for illegally drilling off Cyprus, violating Greek airspace, causing problems to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate and purchasing a Russian missile system despite Washington’s objections.