Greece, Turkey Resume Talks on Maritime Disputes in Mediterranean Under Pressure from EU and NATO

Greece and Turkey opened their first direct talks in nearly five years in Istanbul Monday to discuss long-standing maritime disputes in the eastern Mediterranean.Relations between Athens and Ankara were exacerbated in August of last year when Turkey deployed a survey vessel in contested Mediterranean waters and gunboats from the two countries collided.Disputes over energy sources and borders also have threatened to spiral out of control.Greece and Turkey, both members of the NATO military alliance, made insignificant progress in several dozen rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016.The European Union and NATO had pressed hard on Ankara and Athens to sit down at the negotiating table. They agreed early this month to resume talks in Istanbul, with Turkey hoping to improve its relations with the 27-member block.On Saturday, however, Athens expressed willingness to only discuss issues of mutual economic interests and the continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean, but not issues of “national sovereignty.”  Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country would approach the talks with optimism but “zero naivety.”  On his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped returning to negotiation table would “herald a new era.”The EU has supported Greece, a member of the group, in its disputes with neighboring Turkey, and threatened sanctions on Turkey, but has postponed imposing them until March of this year.

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