German minister travels to Turkey ahead of Eastern Med conflict talks

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Heiko Maas
AFP/ADEM ALTAM - Heiko Maas, titular de Exteriores alemán

dpa/GNA – Greece and Turkey have a “real chance” at de-escalating their territorial stand-off in the Eastern Mediterranean as they prepare to resume direct talks, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said upon departing for Ankara.

On January 25, Turkey and EU member state Greece are to resume exploratory talks abandoned back in 2016 regarding their dispute on gas drilling rights in the region, following German efforts to mediate in the crisis.

“The fact that these talks are now soon to begin offers the real chance of a lasting reduction in tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Maas, who is scheduled to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday, said in a statement.

Greece accuses Turkey of exploring gas reserves in its maritime territory, while Ankara insists the territory belongs to Turkey.

“As a NATO partner, Turkey is clearly obliged to settle even difficult disputes by negotiation in compliance with international law and not to endanger peace in the region,” Maas said prior to his trip.

He welcomed “signals of de-escalation” from Turkey since the beginning of 2021 and called the resumption of talks with Greece “an important first step.”

“The early termination of seismic exploration off Cyprus with the withdrawal of the research vessel Barbaros is also a positive sign from Ankara,” Maas added.

Turkey is also in a territorial dispute with EU member state Cyprus.

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