NATO members Ankara and Athens announced on Monday they had agreed to resume on Jan. 25 long-suspended exploratory talks over disputed offshore rights in the Mediterranean, which brought them close to conflict last year, Reuters reported.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his government would attend the talks.
“We seek a fertile and productive relationship with Turkey,” he told reporters in Lisbon, saying officials would have to be in contact formally. “It’s probably about time we stopped chit-chatting and sat down and agreed on a date.”
Turkey angered Greece and the European Union last year when it deployed a seismic survey vessel to waters also claimed by Athens. The ship has returned to shore but the NATO members still disagree over continental shelves and rights to resources.
Their dispute threatened to spill into open conflict when Turkish and Greek warships collided in August while shadowing Turkey’s Oruc Reis vessel as it surveyed for oil and gas in the waters in west of Cyprus, according to Al Jazeera.
Turkey claims gas resources in the Mediterranean that are also contested by Greece and Cyprus – a dispute that has fanned territorial disputes about maritime boundaries.
Turkey rejects the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, saying Ankara is in favor of resolving all issues through international law.
Turkey and Greece also staged rival military exercises with regional partners.
“We must stop the Mediterranean from being an area for competition and turn into waters that will serve our long-term interests,” Erdogan told EU ambassadors in Ankara.
“We urge Greece to refrain from actions that will escalate tensions. I believe the exploratory talks with Greece that will start on Jan. 25 will herald a new era,” he said.
Ankara and Athens held 60 rounds of talks from 2002 to 2016, but plans last year for a resumption foundered over the survey vessel and disagreements over topics to be covered.
Last year, the EU threatened potential sanctions on Ankara over the dispute but has postponed any measures to March. Turkey has in recent weeks repeatedly called for better ties with the bloc.