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Christodoulides: Ankara saying one thing and doing another

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Nikos Christodoulides in Athens with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias (PIO)

Illegal actions by Turkey off Crete and southwest of Cyprus in recent days prove that positive statements coming out of Ankara “are unfortunately not transformed into deeds”, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Monday.

Christodoulides was speaking in Athens with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias. He appeared to be referring to reports that Turkey sent a research vessel away from what it says is its continental shelf on Sunday after it entered the area without permission, Turkey’s defence ministry said, according to a Reuters report on Monday.

It said that after months of tension last year that sparked fears of direct confrontation between Nato members Turkey and Greece, the two sides agreed in January to resume talks to address their differences after a five-year hiatus. The next round of talks will be in Ankara on Wednesday.

But the Turkish defence ministry said in Monday’s statement that the Nautical Geo, a research vessel under the Maltese flag, was taken away from the Turkish continental shelf at the weekend after being warned that it was trespassing.

Ankara also launched diplomatic initiatives with Malta and Italy, the country of the ship’s owner, it said.

“Despite these initiatives from Turkey, the Nautical Geo research vessel tried to enter Turkish Continental Shelf without permission. Upon this, it was questioned and warned by a ship belonging to the Turkish Navy,” the ministry said.

“Following the vessel’s entry into the continental shelf without permission despite this, the research vessel was removed from the Turkish continental shelf,” it said, adding Turkey blocked the Nautical Geo’s work east of the island of Crete last week for the same reason. Turkey claims part of Greece and Cyprus’ continental shelf as its own.

The Nautical Geo is currently anchored off Larnaca. It’s tracking via marine.traffic.com showed it had previously been in Crete.

“We agreed with Nikos (Dendias) that the illegal and dangerous actions of Ankara in the last few days, both off Crete and in the southwest of Cyprus, prove to the most sceptical that the auspicious statements we have had for a while heard from Ankara are unfortunately not transformed into deeds,” said Christodoulides. “The country’s foreign policy is still based on a revisionist, neo-Ottoman approach, based primarily on its military might”.

Christodoulides said he had the opportunity with Dendias to discuss recent Cyprus developments and to exchange views on the next steps. He briefed his Greek counterpart on the recent meetings in New York with the UN chief.

“Despite the difficulties as a result of the Turkish positions, we still believe that the resumption of substantive talks that will lead to a positive outcome on the basis of the agreed solution is possible and for the benefit of all,” he said.

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