Foreign Minister Heiko Maas today (18 January) issued the following statement prior to his departure for Ankara:
A difficult year lies behind us with respect to EU-Turkey relations. The situation in the eastern Mediterranean came to a head, in some cases dramatically. Such playing with fire must not happen again. As a NATO partner, Turkey has a clear obligation to settle even difficult disputes through negotiations in compliance with international law and to refrain from jeopardising peace in the region.
We therefore welcome the fact that signs of détente have been coming from Turkey since the beginning of the year – not only in the form of words, but also deeds. The fact that Turkey and Greece have announced that they will resume exploratory talks on 25 January, which have been suspended since 2016, is an important first step. The early termination of the seismic survey off Cyprus brought about by the withdrawal of the research vessel Barbaros is also a positive signal from Ankara.
On the part of the Federal Government, we have strongly advocated the resumption of direct talks between Turkey and Greece – especially during our Presidency of the Council of the EU over the past six months. The fact that these talks are now set to begin shortly presents a genuine opportunity for lasting détente in the eastern Mediterranean.
The positive momentum of recent weeks must continue in order to restore lost trust and to lay the foundations for a dialogue focused on finding solutions. That is why I am travelling to Ankara today to encourage my counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to resolutely continue and consolidate the constructive path pursued in recent weeks.