Germany on Nov. 30 welcomed the return to port of Turkish research vessel Oruç Reis after completing its energy exploration mission in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking at a virtual conference on Germany’s EU presidency, Merkel said relations with Turkey, and recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, would be among the major topics of the EU leaders summit on Dec. 10-11.
“It’s a good signal that Oruç Reis now has returned to a Turkish port,” she said, but also expressed regret that they couldn’t achieve much progress in the past two months in decreasing tensions and overcoming differences between EU members and Turkey.
“We have put a great deal of effort into EU’s relations to Turkey. But there are many different obstacles and difficulties that reoccur again and again,” Merkel said.
“Now, we need to see how the discussion goes in December. But I should say we haven’t made as many headways as I would have hoped,” she added.
Following their summit in early October, EU leaders had reiterated the bloc’s solidarity with EU members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration and called on Ankara to take steps to de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
They also agreed to re-energize EU-Turkey relations by launching a “positive agenda” with specific emphasis on modernizing EU-Turkey customs union, enhancing trade and economic ties, cooperation on migration and other issues of common interest.
Amid recent tensions in the region, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have increased their pressure on other EU members to impose sanctions on Turkey during the upcoming EU leaders summit.
The EU’s current term president Germany, and majority of EU members have been reluctant so far to take such action.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration and stressed that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara has sent several drillships in the past weeks to explore for energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its own rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiation.
Turkish ship’s return to port helps ease tension: NATO
NATO’s secretary general on Nov. 30 said Turkish research vessel Oruç Reis’ return to the port helps reduce the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean between the two NATO members, Turkey and Greece.
“Oruç Reis is in port from today, as far as I’ve been informed, that helps reduce tensions and make it easier to make progress also on deconfliction,” Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference ahead of the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting on Dec. 1-2.
He added that he had put forward proposals on how to strengthen the deconfliction mechanism between two countries and how to reduce further risks for incidents and accidents.
“But of course, we have to find ways that is working for both Greece and Turkey,” he added.
He also emphasized the importance of NATO’s role on addressing differences and finding “positive steps in the right direction” when there are disagreements between the member states, namely Turkey and Greece.
“I also hope that military deconfliction at NATO, where we’ve seen some important steps in the right direction can help to pave the way into negotiations,” he said.
“And this is something, Germany is working on, but also some other countries, and NATO, of course, strongly support those efforts.”
Hurriyet Daily News