ANKARA – Turkey and Greece will resume talks aimed at reducing tensions between the neighbors on Jan. 25, Turkish and Greek officials announced Monday, following this summer’s dispute over maritime borders and energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
The announcement came hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu invited Greece to restart talks aimed at resolving their disagreements and also called for a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias.
Cavusoglu's invitation follows a decision by Ankara, which faces sanctions from the European Union, to turn a new page in its troubled relations with EU nations.
“Today ... we want to extend an open invitation to Greece” Cavusoglu said. “We invite Greece to start exploratory talks, with the first meeting being held in January.”
The foreign ministries of Turkey and Greece later issued separate statements saying the so-called exploratory talks would be held in Istanbul on Jan. 25. The talks would be the 61st round of a long-running process of negotiations between Greece and Turkey that aim to improve their often testy relations.
The NATO allies are at odds over a series of issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. The two countries have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s.
Tensions flared this summer after Turkey sent a research vessel escorted by warships to prospect for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean in an area Greece says is over its own continental shelf and where it claims exclusive economic rights.
In December, the EU gave the green light for the expansion of sanctions against Turkey over its exploration of gas reserves in waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.
Earlier, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had been informed of Cavusoglu’s comments.
Mitsotakis said that while the invitation for talks hadn't yet come through the official procedure, “I retain as a positive element that Turkey has expressed the will for the process to start” and said it was time to set a specific date for the talks.
“Greece will come to the exploratory talks, once the date is finalized, also following the directions the European Council itself has given, which are none other than to essentially continue where we left off in March 2016, in other words to make progress, I hope, on the issue of determining the maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.”
Cavusoglu said Dendias had rejected an invitation by Albanian Minister Edi Rama to host a meeting between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers in Tirana because of the coronavirus restrictions but expressed hope that a meeting can take place in the Albanian capital soon.
“I hope Greece does not turn down this opportunity,” Cavusoglu said.
Associated Press writer Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece, contributed to this report.