Turkey ready for sincere talks with Greece - envoy says in letter to Guardian

Turkey is ready for sincere talks with Greece to discuss the delimitation of exclusive economic zones and to resolve political tensions over territory, a top Turkish diplomat said in a letter to the Guardian on Tuesday.

"Yet the Greek side has never engaged in sincere dialogue, in order to delay and avoid concrete negotiations," Ümit Yalçın, Turkey's Ambassador to Britain, said in the letter. He was responding to an editorial by the Guardian which said that the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea supports Greece on the matter.

Political and military tensions between NATO members Greece and Turkey over disputed territories in the Mediterranean have intensified this year, raising concerns for a direct military confrontation. Turkey has sent navy-escorted seismic ships to explore for hydrocarbons in areas claimed by Greece, prompting Athens to deploy its own navy to shadow the vessels.

"The latest attempts by Germany to bring about the resumption of talks were sabotaged by Greece twice – first by signing an agreement on the issue with Egypt, then refusing to talk to Turkey," Yalçın said.

Greece also rejected NATO's efforts to initiate technical talk on deconfliction measures, he said.

The discovery of huge natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean in the past decade has created the potential to transform energy supplies in the region. But the resources are subject to claims from eight countries and centre around Cyprus, divided since 1974 between a Greek Cypriot south, a European Union member, and the Turkish Cypriot north, only recognised by Ankara.

Turkey signed an agreement with Libya's Government of National Accord in November which sought to establish an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to legitimise Turkey's claims to offshore gas and oil reserves. In response, Greece has inked a similar deal with Egypt that sets out EEZs between the two countries.