The Greek government welcomed a Turkish survey vessel’s return to port Sunday from a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean that has been at the heart of a summer stand-off between Greece and Turkey over energy rights.
The Oruc Reis research ship returned to near the southern Turkish port of Antalya for the first time in more than a month after Turkey announced in July that it was dispatching a vessel to work in waters that Greece claims are its exclusive jurisdiction.
“This is a positive signal. We will see how this develops to make a proper assessment,″ Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told TV channel Skai.
The ship returned to Antalya after its Navtex, or international maritime safety advisory, for the waters between Turkey, Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete it had been in since Aug. 10 expired.
Later on Sunday, Turkey confirmed that the ship had returned but insisted the move did not mean Ankara was "giving up".
“There will be planned movements backwards and forwards," Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told state news agency Anadolu in Antalya, southern Turkey. He added that Turkey supports peace and dialogue “if our wishes and demands are fulfilled.”
The dispute over potential oil and gas reserves has triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean. Nominal NATO allies Turkey and Greece both dispatched warships to the area where the Oruc Reis was engaged in seismic research and conducted military exercises to assert their claims.
NATO intervened, organising talks between the two countries’ militaries to prevent a potential armed conflict.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the island of Kastellorizo near the disputed waters on Sunday where she said Turkey was "mounting pressure" on Athens.
"We are going through a difficult and dangerous period. The Turkish leadership... is undermining the peaceful coexistence that was built over many decades by Greeks and Turks, who saw the sea between them not as an impenetrable frontier but as a passage of communication," Sakellaropoulou said.
Leaders of seven European countries on the Mediterranean met at a summit last week in Corsica where they said they were ready to back EU sanctions on Turkey over the dispute.
Any action by Brussels will be discussed at a European Council summit on September 24 and 25.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)