Papandreou plans to visit Turkey to upgrade bilateral ties in all fields including tensions over gas drilling issue, amid Turkey started its seismic research on Monday.
Despite regional tensions over a Greek Cypriot gas drilling operation in the Mediterranean, the prime ministers of Turkey and Greece have expressed commitments to push ahead with bilateral cooperation talks planned for the coming weeks.
Greek Prime Minister Yorgo Papandreou, accompanied by a number of Cabinet ministers, is set to visit Ankara to upgrade bilateral ties in all fields late October or early November. Greece’s George Papandreou called Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday and the two had “a very cordial conversation, free of tensions,” an official from Erdoğan’s office told the Hürriyet Daily News. The two prime ministers planned to meet in New York last week, but Papandreou had to call off his visit due to the growing economic crisis at home. The Erdoğan-Papandreou conversation came on the day Turkey’s Piri Reis, an exploration vessel, began its seismic work in the Mediterranean. Papandreou said “the situation should be handled with restraint,” while Erdoğan explained Ankara’s views on the dispute and its concerns that the Greek Cypriot drilling drive would “sabotage” U.N.-sponsored peace talks between the two Cypriot communities at a time when they have reached a critical stage.
Erdoğan said Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu’s proposal on ending the crisis should be seriously considered. He also recalled the principle of using natural reserves of Cyprus following the reunification of the divided island. Both leaders indicated that the row should not impede the second meeting of the Turkey-Greece High-Level Cooperation Council, planned to be held either in October or November in Turkey, the official said. Hüseyin Avni Benli, director of the institute that owns Piri Reis, said seismic research has started. Benli said Turkish war jets and ships were closely watching their work.
Turkey may buy or rent a drilling platform
Meanwhile, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said the Turkish Petroleum Corporation will consider buying or renting a drilling platform worth $1.5 billion if the seismic research produces results, the daily Akşam quoted Yıldız as saying. The minister rejected opposition gibes over the size and age of the Piri Reis, saying that “what matters is the ship’s functional ability.” The problem between Turkey and Greek Cyprus will be discussed at a meeting at the European Parliament on Tuesday. Erdoğan pledged solidarity to Papandreou due to the ongoing economic crisis that is severely affecting neighboring Greece. Meanwhile, Turkey does not have any intention of going to war with anyone, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Monday in reference to the recent tension caused by Greek Cyprus’ plans to drill for gas off its southeastern coast, Anatolia news agency reported. Arınç told international broadcaster Euronews that he hoped the Greek Cypriots would not go ahead with their plans, which could make Turkey have to use force.