Erdoğan signals backpedalling to negotiations on East Med

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared to fall back towards talks with Greece to de-escalate a month of growing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We can meet on a common ground where everyone can win. We can pursue a win-win policy,” Hürriyet newspaper cited Erdoğan as saying at a meeting with officials from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

However, the Turkish president emphasised that expressing a desire to talk “does not mean that we will compromise on our rights on our rights”.

Erdoğan’s comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for a moratorium between Greece and Turkey and the start of a dialogue.

The top American diplomat told reporters in Washington that U.S. President Donald Trump had held conversations with Erdoğan and Greek President Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“We’re urging everyone to stand down, to reduce tensions and to begin to have diplomatic discussions about the conflicts that exist there in the eastern Mediterranean, the security conflicts, the energy resource conflicts, the maritime conflicts,” Pompeo said.

“They need to sit down and have conversations about this and resolve this diplomatically. It is not useful to increase military tension in the region; only negative things can flow from that,” he added.

His statement came a day after Washington announced the lifting of the embargo on Cyprus after 33 years for the purchase of non-lethal defence articles. Turkey said the move would have a negative effort on efforts to solve the issues of the island.

Pompeo said the embargo lifting had been a “long time coming”.

“We know that this decision was announced in light of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean but we thought it was the right thing, so I made the decision that we would move forward with it,” he said.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan said Turkey will refuse to partake any talks which include the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia. “We can sit down with anybody except Southern Cyprus,” he said, referring to the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus.

Turkey remains unwilling to work with the Cypriot government over its support of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has controlled the northern third of the Mediterranean island since 1974. The TRNC was formed after Turkey invaded the region in response to a Greek Cypriot coup that aimed to unite the island with Greece, and is only recognised by Turkey.

According to Turkey, the TRNC and Turkish Cypriots have been deprived of their rightful share of Cyprus’s natural resources, including hydrocarbon deposits off its shores. Tensions have been running high since Turkey launched exploration efforts last year in what is internationally recognised as territorial waters of Cyprus and Greece.

Erdoğan said Turkey still supports a political solution in Cyprus, while Greece remains unwilling.

Turkey’s stance hasn’t changed throughout the years and is “compatible with international law”, while “countries like France and Greece constantly had their presidents change”, Erdoğan said, leading to shifting approaches on the matter.

The president told AKP’s central executive committee to “look into these comings and goings to date in an extensive study”, to be presented in diplomatic efforts and to the public.

Ahval

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