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For talks, Turkish ship must pull back: Greece

Row over exploration in Mediterranean

Greece will not hold talks with Turkey on defusing tension in the eastern Mediterranean unless Ankara withdraws an energy research ship from contested areas, a senior Minister said on Tuesday.

A dispute over gas exploration saw the two NATO countries stage rival military drills in August in strategic waters between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

The Turkish Navy said the Oruc Reis ship will restart activities in the region, including the south of Kastellorizo, until October 22 in a message sent to the maritime alert system NAVTEX late on Sunday.

“(Greece) will not sit at the table for exploratory talks while the Oruc Reis and escorting warships are out there,” Minister of State George Gerapetritis told Parapolitika radio.

He said Athens would “emphatically” raise the dispute at a European council meeting starting Thursday.

Greece’s government is expected to discuss the issue with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas who is visiting later Tuesday.

Greece claims rights over the waters around its island of Kastellorizo but Turkey says the island’s close proximity to its longer coastline makes the territory a legitimate area for its vessels to explore.

Ankara first deployed the Oruc Reis and warships to disputed waters on August 10 and extended the mission, ignoring repeated calls to stop by Greece and the European Union.

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