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Greek foreign minister hopes for ‘positive’ spirit from Turkey in talks

Foreign Ministers Of Greece, Cyprus Hold Press Conference
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias speaks during a press conference following a meeting with his Cyprus counterpart Nicos Christodoulides

Greece’s foreign minister said he hoped Turkey would have a positive approach towards a meeting next week aimed at reviving long-stalled efforts to open negotiations over disputed territorial claims.

The neighbouring countries held 60 rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016, but plans last year for discussions to be resumed foundered over a survey vessel sent by Ankara into disputed waters and disagreements over the topics to be covered.

“The only sure thing is the positive approach of Athens. I hope the Turkish side will come to these talks in the same spirit,” Nikos Dendias told the Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper in an interview.

He said the exploratory talks, which were halted in March 2016, were not negotiations but aimed to discover whether there was enough convergence for possible future negotiations on just one specific issue.

“I want to be clear, that (subject) is the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean on the basis of international law,” Dendias was quoted as saying.

If negotiations did begin after the exploratory talks but the two sides were still unable to reach a deal, they would have to agree on a text to refer the issue to the International Court in The Hague, he added.

While Athens only wants to address the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, Ankara says all issues should be tackled, including air space and the status of some Greek islands in the Aegean.

“In the exploratory talks there will be no discussion on demilitarising islands. No discussion on an issue that has to do with national sovereignty,” Dendias told the newspaper.

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