Turkey has announced plans to hold a new round of talks with Greece in Ankara to reduce tension in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, said Friday that Turkish and Greek officials will meet in Ankara in the coming days to address issues that have led to rising tensions.
Akar said that his country will not neglect its rights in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, stressing that “Cypriots are our brothers.”
“We are ready to do whatever it takes to protect the rights and interests of our Cypriot brothers there.”
Turkey and its armed forces will not neglect their rights and the rights of Northern Cyprus, said Akar, adding that any solution that excludes Ankara and the Turkish side of the divided island is doomed to fail.
In response, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused the Turkish leadership of seeking to return to the days of the “Ottoman empire,” noting that his country asked the European Union to impose sanctions on Turkey if it continues its violations in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
Dendias indicated that his country does not refuse to negotiate with Turkey but there currently isn’t a path for negotiation, and Athens cannot negotiate under threat.
The FM was responding to Ankara's announcement that it could pause energy-exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean for a while pending talks with Greece.
In a move that confirms Ankara’s aim to avoid any clash with Greece, the Turkish ship, Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, arrived off the coast of Northern Cyprus to continue exploration activities.
The vessel will support ships Tanux-1 and Apollo Moon conduct seismic research activity in accordance with international law in Zone F, which falls within sectors 2 and 3, which Cyprus has defined as part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The European Union opposes Turkey's exploration activities off the coast of Cyprus, its member state, and believes these activities are illegal which could lead to the imposition of a symbolic sanctions package on Ankara if it continues its violations.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said he believes that a Turkish accession to the EU is impossible within the next 15 to 20 years.
Asselborn told the German daily, Die Welt, that the significant violations of human rights in Turkey are the reason why a Turkish accession to the EU in the near future seems far from reality.
However, the FM stated that the entry negotiations should not be completely halted, adding that the last municipal elections seem to prove a significant presence of a democratic movement, noting that he does not wish to take people’s hope away.
Negotiations between Turkey and the EU started in 2005, but they have been frozen since 2012.