Greek prime minister on Sunday said he is ready to talk with the Turkish president if the tension between Greece and Turkey eased.

The return of Turkey’s seismic exploration vessel, Oruc Reis, from the Mediterranean to the country’s Antalya port is “a first positive step,” said Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a forum held in Thessaloniki city.

He said the beginning of exploratory talks depends on general approaches.

Amid tensions over the Mediterranean territory and energy exploration, Turkey has repeatedly stressed its willingness to enter negotiations without preconditions, in contrast to Greece’s refusal in recent weeks to enter dialogue through both NATO or the EU.

Mitsotakis announced that they would replace the existing Mirage 2000 aircraft with 18 Rafale-type fighter jets from France.

He said the first order of French Rafale-type warplanes will arrive in mid-2021, while others will be delivered in early 2022.

The prime minister, however, claimed that Athens would not enter the “arms race and that mistakes in defense in the past will not be repeated.”

Eastern Mediterranean situation

Tensions in the region have been high since Turkey resumed energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean last month, after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal, spurning Ankara’s goodwill gesture of halting a previous search.

Despite opposition from Greece and some other countries, Turkey has repeatedly extended its research vessel Oruc Reis’s energy exploration in an area within Turkey’s continental shelf, with the latest announced on Aug. 31, this time until Sept. 12.

Turkey has consistently opposed Greece’s efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.

Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot administration.

*Writing by Fahri Aksut

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