Turkey says that it turned back a Greek frigate and a French seismic research ship that sought to operate in waters it claims as its own in the eastern Mediterranean during the weekend.
According to Turkish daily Hurriyet, the French ship L’Atalante, escorted by the frigate Elli, sailed into the area to conduct research without permission on Saturday.
Greece issued a NAVTEX – a maritime safety announcement – on Thursday saying that the L’Atalante would conduct scientific research between April 15 and April 18 in the eastern Mediterranean southeast of the Greek island of Crete.
The statement coincided with a visit to Turkey by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
Turkey immediately issued its own NAVTEX warning shipping concerns that part of the area specified in the Greek announcement lay over the Turkish continental shelf.
L’Atalante, operated by a crew of French, Greek, Italian and Israeli citizens, continued its research outside the area after the Turkish Navy intervened, Hurriyet said.
Greece and Turkey disagree on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean and Aegean and have overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources.
Political and military tensions escalated in August when Turkey sent its Oruç Reis research vessel escorted by warships into a disputed area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.
Greece said on Sunday that a solution with Turkey over territorial disputes in the Mediterranean and other issues “is difficult, but not impossible.”
Greece -Turkey issues cannot be hidden under the rug
In an interview with Greek Sunday Kathimerini, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias acknowledged that the two NATO allies have different views.
“It is not possible to hide under the rug issues where we have different views and approaches,” he said referring to the public spat he had with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday in Ankara.
However, he points out that the meeting, despite the clashes in public view, can be the first chapter of a gradual improvement of Greece’s relations with Turkey.
Dendias told the paper that while the climate during the talks was good, there was no convergence on many issues.
“The issue we face with Turkey is that there is no common denominator regarding the framework of resolving our differences,” Dendias told the paper.
He said Greece’s view is that demarcating its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf with Turkey in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean must be based on international law.
“I don’t see a toughening of Turkey’s stance on the issues concerning the Aegean and the east Mediterranean. But I do see fixed positions that are beyond international law, which makes resolution prospects difficult but not impossible,” he said.
Dendias said he has invited Cavusoglou to Athens to continue talks and this could help to prepare the grounds for a meeting of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.