Greece welcomes return to port of Turkish survey ship at heart of standoff
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Greece welcomes return to port of Turkish survey ship at heart of standoff

After a summer of simmering tensions and military buildup in the eastern Mediterranean, research vessel docks near port of Antalya

In this photo taken August 10, 2020, Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis, center, is surrounded by Turkish navy vessels west of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. (IHA via AP)
In this photo taken August 10, 2020, Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis, center, is surrounded by Turkish navy vessels west of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. (IHA via AP)

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 standoff 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 weeks after Turkey announced in July that it was dispatching a vessel to work in waters that Greece claims are under 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 dispute over potential oil and gas reserves triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean.

In this photo made from a video provided by the Turkish Energy Ministry on Aug. 12, 2020, Turkey’s research vessel Oruc Reis is sailing off the west of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. (Turkish Energy Ministry via AP, Pool)

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.

Greece claimed the vessel operated over its continental shelf, where it has exclusive rights on potential undersea gas and oil deposits. Turkey was also prospecting for hydrocarbons in waters where Cyprus claims exclusive economic rights.

The Greek foreign minister earlier this year accused Turkey of displaying “neo-Ottoman” ideology, referring to Ankara’s perceived desire to revive the Ottoman Turkish empire that once ruled most of the eastern Mediterranean, including what is now Greece. He insisted Athens would protect its sovereign rights and interests against its much bigger and more heavily-armed neighbor.

NATO intervened, organizing talks between the two countries’ militaries to prevent a potential armed conflict.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Sunday in Antalya’s district of Kas that Turkey supports peace and dialogue “if our wishes and demands are fulfilled.”

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