Top Turkish, Greek diplomats hold first meeting since crisis, agree on talks

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey and Greece's foreign ministers met on Thursday for the first time since their dispute over energy exploration and territorial rights in the eastern Mediterranean and agreed to hold bilateral talks on the issue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, disagree on the rights to potential energy resources and the extent of the continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions eased in August when Turkish and Greek warships collided, but eased later when Ankara and Athens agreed to resume talks.
On Thursday, Cavusoglu said he had met with Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias on the sidelines of the Global Security Forum in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, for about 25 minutes.
"During this meeting we agreed that exploratory talks and confidence-building measures would be held in the coming period. As Turkey will be the host, we will propose some dates for these meetings," said Cavusoglu.
"I told him (Dendias) that it was beneficial to keep the dialogue going even in the most difficult of circumstances, and we agreed on that," he added.
Greece has accused Turkey of illegally conducting seismic surveys in parts of the Mediterranean claimed by Athens and Cyprus. Turkey says, however, that its operations are within the framework of international law and that Athens and Nicosias will not allow “maximalist” claims to be caught in a narrow strip of waters dotted with Greek islands.
The ministerial meeting took place on the same day that Northern Cyprus reopened part of the beach of a resort that had been abandoned since the invasion of Turkey in 1974. This was supported by Ankara but condemned by Greek Cypriots and has raised international concern.
Cavusoglu said he and Dendias also discussed the opening of the resort during their meeting and shared their views with each other.
Last month, Ankara withdrew its exploration ship from disputed waters ahead of a European Union summit last week to "make diplomacy possible". After the summit, the bloc said it would punish Turkey if it continued its operations in the region. In one step, Ankara said that relations between Turkey and the EU would continue to be strained.
On Thursday, Cavusoglu held a separate meeting with Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Bratislava. He then said that he had told Maas that he was "disappointed" with the impending sanction of the EU summit in the eastern Mediterranean if what it called Turkey's "provocations" in the eastern Mediterranean continued.
"Germany, Ms. Merkel and Heiko Maas did everything they could, but the result is clear," said Cavusoglu, referring to Berlin's efforts to mediate between Ankara and Athens.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Alexandra Hudson)

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