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Erdogan foretells ‘new era’ with Greece, eyes wider EU rapprochement

Erdogan foretells ‘new era’ with Greece, eyes wider EU rapprochement

dpa
Istanbul
The resumption of talks between Ankara and Athens to resolve some of their differences over maritime borders and energy exploration will “herald a new era,” Turkey’s president said on Tuesday.
The 61st round of exploratory talks between the neighbouring NATO members - the first since 2016 - are due to be held in Istanbul on January 25.
Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over natural gas reserves and maritime boundaries, with both claiming the right to prospect and drill for energy resources in the same part of the eastern Mediterranean.
“We need to make the eastern Mediterranean a basin of cooperation that will serve our long-term interests, rather than an area of competition,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told EU ambassadors in Ankara, but told Greece to cease acts that “escalate tensions.”
The stand-off with both Greece and Cyprus last summer saw Turkey send research vessels into contested waters, EU allies dispatch ships to the region to back Greece’s claims, and both Ankara and Athens carry out manoeuvres with frigates and fighter jets.
Greece accuses Turkey of illegally exploring for natural gas off its islands. Ankara rejects the allegations, saying the waters belong to the Turkish continental shelf.
Turkey has been subjected to “serious injustice” in the eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan said, adding that peace was impossible without the participation of Ankara and Turkish Cypriots.
The Mediterranean island state of Cyprus has, since a conflict in 1974, been split into a Greek south and a Turkish north whose sovereignty is recognized only by Ankara. Peace talks brokered by the United Nations have failed.
The inflamed tensions in the Mediterranean also severely tested ties between Turkey and France, but Erdogan signalled reconciliation with Paris as he outlined a wider rapprochement with the bloc.
While EU accession talks started in 2005, ties soured after a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and are now frozen.
Yet, Erdogan maintained Turkey was prepared to put relations back on track and was committed to the goal of full EU membership.
“The uncertainty that has increased with Brexit can only be eliminated with Turkey taking the place it deserves in the European family,” he said.
He said he expects that “European friends show the same determination.” Ankara is keen to turn a new page in its relationship with the bloc, its fragile economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU is Turkey’s largest trading partner.
The EU’s threatened punitive measures last year over Turkey’s drilling activities will be reassessed at a summit in March.
Meanwhile, Erdogan said he has invited European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel to Turkey. And his top diplomat, Mevlut Cavusoglu, is to visit Brussels.

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