Turkey returns Oruc Reis exploration ship to port ahead of EU summit

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Ankara has decided to return its seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis to the port in Antalya ahead of a key EU summit, scheduled for mid-December to discuss Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The research vessel had completed the “two-dimensional seismic research” it was conducting off Demre, a city on the southern Turkish coast, the country’s Energy and Natural Resources Ministry said on Monday.

Oruc Reis’ exploration activities in Greece’s and Cyprus’ continental shelves have sparked an outcry by the two governments and the EU, which have condemned Turkey’s illegal activities and warned Ankara over economic sanctions. EU leaders are set to meet on December 11-12 to assess the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with bloc’s relations with Turkey, with France championing the push to sanction Ankara. 

In late November, the European Parliament agreed during its plenary session on a non-binding resolution in support of Cyprus which urges EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions in response to Turkey’s illegal actions.” The adoption of the text related to the recent developments in the abandoned coastal city of Cyprus’ Varosha and Erdogan’s “picnic” on the 37th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence by Turkish Cypriots, signals the growing opposition to Turkey’s EU prospect, with several MEPs calling for the suspension of EU accession talks or even their cancellation. 

The call enjoys the support of Europe’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who reassured lawmakers that the matter remains “high” on EU’s agenda, as stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as constructive cooperation of all sides involved is in the EU’s “strategic interest.” 

In recent weeks, Erdogan adopted a conciliatory tone, notoriously stating that he sees Turkey in Europe and aims at building its relations and future within the EU. 

“We see ourselves in Europe, not in a different place. We foresee building our future with the EU..However this does not mean that we will bow down to overt attacks to our country and nation, veiled injustices and double standards,” Erdogan told the members of the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) on November 21. 

A similar tone was kept by the Turkish government’s spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, who said on Tuesday that Ankara is ready for dialogue with Athens without preconditions, adding that setting a date for exploratory talks between the two sides is now possible, given that the Oruc Reis has suspended its operations in the Eastern Mediterranean.



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