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Greece says tension easing in East Med dispute with Turkey

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Turkey has reduced the number of navy vessels in an area of the East Mediterranean where it disputes Greek jurisdiction over oil-and-gas drilling rights, Greek authorities said Monday.

Tensions in the long-standing dispute flared last week between the two NATO allies when Turkey announced it planned to send a research vessel south of the Greek islands of Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kastellorizo.

The initiative was publicly criticized by the United States, France, and other European countries, and the Turkish research vessel, the Oruc Reis, has remained anchored off the southeast Turkish port of Antalya.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday that Turkey was withdrawing navy vessels from the area, adding that Athens remained ready to enter negotiations with Turkey “within the framework of international law and good neighborly relations.”

Turkey accuses Greece of trying to exclude it from fair mineral exploitation in the East Mediterranean, arguing that Greek islands should not be included calculating exclusive economic zones. Athens counters that Turkey’s position is a violation of international law.

Turkey says the research mission plan will remain in effect through Aug. 2.

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