German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged a “solution-oriented” dialogue between Turkey and Greece to overcome ongoing disputes between the two countries and de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In a statement he made in Berlin before traveling to Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart later in the day, Maas said Germany welcomes recent diplomatic initiatives by Turkey and expects this positive momentum to continue.
“The announcement by Turkey and Greece that they will resume the exploratory talks, which had been interrupted since 2016, is an important first step,” he said.
“During Germany’s EU presidency in the last six months, we have made strong efforts for the resumption of direct talks between Turkey and Greece. The start of these talks now offers a real chance of permanent de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he added.
Maas said Turkey has not only made positive statements about dialogue but also has taken concrete steps in recent weeks to contribute to de-escalation in the region and ended some of its drilling activities in the region ahead of schedule.
“The positive momentum we have witnessed in the past few weeks must continue in order to restore the lost confidence and create the basis for a solutions-oriented dialogue,” he said.
“That is why I am traveling to Ankara today to encourage my counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, to resolutely continue and consolidate the constructive course of recent weeks,” he added.
Turkey and Greece announced last week that they will resume the 61st round of exploratory talks on Jan. 25 in Istanbul.
The 60th round, the last of the exploratory talks initiated between the two countries in 2002, was held in Athens on March 1, 2016. After this date, the bilateral negotiations continued in the form of political consultations but did not return to an exploratory framework.
Talks are expected to focus on bilateral disputes, including maritime boundaries and drilling rights in the region.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that the excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara sent several drillships to explore for energy in the Eastern Mediterranean last year, asserting its rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).