ANKARA

Ankara will always support unconditional dialogue on the Eastern Mediterranean issue since we believe that the one who is in the right does not stay away from the negotiation table, Turkey’s top diplomat said on Saturday.

“Turkey is always in favor of dialogue. Turkey has never had its eyes on the rights of other countries, but has always defended its own rights and will continue to do so,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference with his Maltese counterpart Evarist Bartolo in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya.

Inviting Greece or other countries to the negotiation table is not an act of appeasement, Cavusoglu asserted, explaining that any party that believes it is in the right on any issue does not shy away from dialogue and negotiation.

If Greece thinks it is in the right and its demands and behavior are in line with international law, it should come to the negotiating table with maps and relevant agreements so that everyone can see who actually has the justified position, the Turkish minister added.

Cavusoglu thanked his counterpart for evaluating the issue objectively and frankly.

‘Situation is already tense’

Bartolo also stressed the need for dialogue on the Eastern Mediterranean tensions, saying “the situation is already tense.”

“Provocative language does not help, aggressive attitudes do not help,” he said, urging all sides to “be careful” with their words and not escalate the situation.

On EU-Turkey relations, he said the bloc must have a strategic approach in its relations with Ankara.

“I think it is time for the European Union to look at its relationship with Turkey strategically,” said Bartolo.

He said Turkey and Malta’s cooperation on the Libya situation was important because any instability in Libya has a direct negative effect on Malta.

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.

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.

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