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Greece says it will talk to Turkey on East Med boundaries once Ankara stops its “provocations”

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on September 4 that Greece would start talks with Turkey to resolve their conflicting claims over maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, but only once Ankara put a stop to its "provocations".

"[Our country] can and wants to discuss the demarcation of maritimes zones in the Aegean Sea, in the eastern Mediterranean, based on international law. But not under threats," Mitsotakis said during a meeting with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi who is visiting Athens, as reported by Reuters.

He added: "Let the threats go for talks to begin. Once the provocations end, discussions will begin."

Mitsotakis said that Greece's foreign minister would deliver a letter from him outlining Athens' case to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres when the two meet in New York on September 4.

Turkey is accused by Athens, Cyprus and the EU—particularly France, which has lately sent a warship and fighter planes for joint military exercises with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean and has been to the fore in pressing for Brussels to hit Turkey with sanctions—of sending gas and oil exploration vessels into maritime territories that they hold are either Greek or Cypriot. Turkey has hit out at a pact Greece made with Egypt delineating an area of the sea that Ankara claims infringes the Turkish continental shelf.

Turkey is also holding war games in the eastern Mediterranean and tensions this week mounted further when the Turkish navy said it had information that Russia would hold two naval exercises in the vicinity beginning next week.

Mitsotakis spoke a day after Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Greece and Turkey, both members of the Western alliance, had agreed to talks to avoid accidental clashes in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey said it supported Nato’s initiative, adding that the talks were not about solving bilateral problems but about measures so far handled by the two countries' militaries. It added that it expected Greece to do the same.

Commenting on Nato's announcement on September 3, Greek diplomats said a condition for dialogue remained that Turkey de-escalated its activity in the region.