Greek Prime Minister: To resume preparatory talks with Turkey by March

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greek and Turkish officials would likely meet again at the end of February or early March to revive efforts to resolve a maritime border dispute.

The two countries in NATO are at odds over a number of decades-old issues, including the boundaries of their continental shelf, the flight over the Aegean Sea and an ethnically divided Cyprus.

The two countries held dozens of rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016 in an effort to lay the groundwork for comprehensive negotiations to demarcate the maritime boundaries.

After a four-year hiatus, prolonged by a dispute over energy resource rights in the eastern Mediterranean last year, the two countries resumed exploratory talks on January 25.

The meeting, which was held in Istanbul at the time, and the sixty-first round of talks, ended a few hours later, but the two sides said they had agreed to meet again in Athens.

Mitsotakis said that the talks will likely resume by early March, ahead of an EU summit that starts on the 25th of the month.

“I expect (the talks to resume) within the next month, sometime at the end of February or the beginning of March,” he told Reuters. It is a good step in the right direction”.

Among the obstacles that still stand in the way are the issues that each side wishes to discuss. 

Athens says it will only consider demarcating Bahrain in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, while Ankara says all issues should be discussed, including the airspace and the status of some Greek islands.

“It should not be a ruse to avoid debate in the Council of the European Union in March,” Mitsotakis said of the talks.

Greece, which recently reached two maritime agreements with Italy and Egypt, says that if the two sides fail to agree, they should refer the dispute to an international court.