Turkey says to host talks with Greece over territory, date yet to be set

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would host a first round of exploratory talks with Greece to resolve a dispute over territory.

Çavuşoğlu spoke after meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias for 25 minutes on the sidelines of a security forum in Bratislava, Slovakia, Reuters reported. No date was set for the negotiations.

“During this meeting, we agreed that exploratory talks and confidence building measures would be carried out in the coming period. Since Turkey will host this, we will suggest some dates for these meetings,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Political and military tensions between Turkey and Greece over territories in the eastern Mediterranean have intensified over the past three months after Turkey sent seismic survey ships into disputed waters between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete. It has since withdrawn the vessels to give diplomacy a chance and for mechanical servicing.

Germany has taken a mediation role in the standoff. The two countries have agreed a military de-escalation mechanism during NATO-sponsored talks between lower level officials.

“I told him (Dendias) that it is beneficial to maintain dialogue even in the toughest conditions and we also agreed to do that,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the talks would be confined to resolving differences over maritime territories and amounted to a resumption of negotiations suspended in March 2016.

“Let me clarify that the subject of these talks, as in previous rounds, remains unchanged: It is the delimitation of maritime zones. It's the only difference we have with Turkey,” he said, according to Greek newspaper Kathimerini, which cited an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro on Thursday.

Mitsotakis said that he had no plans to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but that the situation could change “if Turkey stops the provocations”.