Turkey "freezes" oil and gas research in the Eastern Mediterranean

Oruc Reis

Oruc Reis

Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Turkey will suspend research for oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, pending talks with Greece.

In an interview on CNN Turk, Kalin said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his aides to "put this on hold for some time."

Last week, Turkey announced plans to dispatch research vessel Oruc Reis to the south and east of the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

"Greece gave an extreme reaction after our Navtex as if we will go occupy Meis Island (Kastellorizo). Nevertheless, our president said 'since these negotiations are continuing, let's see what happens and put this on hold for some time," Kalin said.

The Greek Armed Forces were put on high alert on land, sea and air, and continue to closely monitor Turkish movements.

"Everyone should continue working on their own continental shelves and conduct joint work in contested areas," Kalin continued. He also said that bilateral issues with Greece should be solved through dialogue rather than through threats on Turkey's bid for European Union membership.

"Within the framework of our president's orders, we are ready to speak about all bilateral issues with Greece without preconditions: the Aegean, continental shelves, islands, air space, exploration and the Eastern Mediterranean," Kalin added.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas welcomed Turkey's decision.

"This is a positive development," Petsas told Skai. "We want to have open channels of communication with Turkey and to discuss the issue that has been plaguing the two sides for many decades now: The demarcation of maritime zones. This is the issue, which of course needs the proper framework to move forward."

On his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Ankara's decision to suspend research for oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean will help de-escalate tensions between Greece and Turkey.

“The statement of the presidential spokesman is a positive development for us. The Greek government has always said, and continues to say, that the necessary condition for dialogue is the de-escalation on the part of Turkey,” he said after his meeting with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya in Athens.

“We believe that this is in the interest of both Turkey and Turkish society,” he added.

However, a few hours after Turkey withdrew 'Oruc Reis', they issued a NAVTEX  for its second seismic research vessel 'Barbaros' for research in the Cypriot EEZ

The NAVTEX is valid from Tuesday, July 28, until September 20.