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Greek PM welcomes departure of Oruc Reis, Turkey says it doesn’t mean anything (Update 2)

Oruc Reis
The Oruc Reis returned to port last week

The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis has returned to Turkey following the expiry of a navigational warning, Navetx for exploration in the region, including an area west of Cyprus.

The Navtex expired at midnight Saturday night and the vessel has returned to Antalya on the Turkish coast. It was not renewed.

Cypriot Foreign Minster Nikos Christodoulides called  the ship’s departure, and non-renewal of the Navtex, “a step in the right direction”.

He told CNA that at the same time Turkey continues to violate Cyprus’ EEZ against all of the calls from the international community, including the EU and the US.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday: “The return of Oruc Reis is a positive first step, I hope there will be continuity. We want to talk with Turkey but in a climate without provocations,” Mitsotakis told reporters in Thessaloniki.

He said dialogue was the only way to tackle the sole problem between the two countries – the delimitation of maritime zones. “The first step (by Turkey) will be the prologue of an improving situation in our bilateral relations,” he said.

However, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said later that the return of the ship did not mean Ankara had given up on its rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Akar told the Anadolu news agency that the return of the Oruc Reis had been part of its scheduled operations.

One Turkish newspaper put the move down to behind-the-scenes diplomacy on the part of Nato.

Although both Greece and Turkey say they want dialogue to resolve the maritime dispute, the war of words has continued.

The latest statements out of Ankara saw harsh words for both Greece and France, which has taken on the championing of the rights of Greece and Cyprus in the region. At the Med7 conference in Corsica Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey was no longer a partner in the Mediterranean and that the Turkish people would be better off without President Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan responded warning Macron: “I do not even want to say his name, but I am obliged, because he is constantly in my face… Mr Macron, you will have even more problems with me.”

He said the history of Africa was literally the history of France. “You are the one who killed a million people in Algeria. You can not teach us lessons in humanity. I told him [Macron] personally… I told him ‘look you do not know your story, you have to learn this’. As for us, we did not break a nose in Africa,” he added.

Erdogan also said that during the coronavirus Turkey offered support to almost 150 countries in Africa and the world and asked Macron what he had done in that regard.

Turkish foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusogolu meanwhile, said if Greece has conditions for talks then Turkey did also. However the ideal was for them to sit at the negotiating table without conditions, he said.

During a news conference, after his meeting with his Maltese counterpart who was in Cyprus on Friday, Cavusoglu said Turkey was always in favour of dialogue.

He also said that when Turkey invited Greece and other countries to the negotiating table, some perceived it as a retreat. “He who is right does not avoid the table, he does not avoid negotiations. If Greece is right in its arguments, if it thinks that they are in line with international law, they will come to the table with maps and agreements to support them. And we will put forward our arguments. Everyone on that day will see who is right,” he added.

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