Turkey says EU Mediterranean statement biased, open to talks with Greece

FILE PHOTO: Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis is escorted by Turkish Navy ships as it sets sail in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya, Turkey, August 10, 2020. Picture taken August 10, 2020. Turkish Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey on Friday slammed a statement by the European Union’s seven Mediterranean states as biased and “detached from reality”, but said it was still open to unconditional talks with Greece.

NATO members Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

In a joint statement late on Thursday, France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus said the bloc would draw up a list of new sanctions on Turkey at the end of September unless Ankara negotiates to resolve the dispute with Greece and Cyprus.

In a statement on Friday, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Greece must “unconditionally sit at the negotiating table with Turkey” in order to achieve dialogue and cooperation in the region.

It said Athens must withdraw its military ships from around Oruc Reis in order to de-escalate tensions.

“(Greece) needs to stop making the EU an instrument in its narrow-minded interests, while the EU and the signatories of the joint statement need to abandon the one-sided and biased policy they have blindly been using under the pretense of solidarity,” Aksoy said.

The EU has said it stands in “full support and solidarity” with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute while Athens and Nicosia have called on the bloc to sanction Turkey. The EU will address the issue at a summit on Sept. 24-25.

Addressing the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the EU had no jurisdiction on maritime boundary matters and Ankara expected the bloc to remain unbiased.

Military officials from Turkey and Greece met at the NATO headquarters on Thursday for talks aimed at preventing further military escalation in the eastern Mediterranean, such as a collision between Turkish and Greek warships last month.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler, William Maclean