Greece says wants positive agenda with Turkey after ministers' spat

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias hold a news conference in Ankara, Turkey April 15, 2021. Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

ATHENS (Reuters) -Greece's centre-right government said on Friday it wanted a "positive agenda" with Turkey despite differences, a day after their foreign ministers clashed during a news conference, while President Tayyip Erdogan defended Ankara's response.

The statement from the Greek foreign ministry appeared aimed at easing the atmosphere after an ill-tempered exchange between Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The argument between two foreign ministers laid bare the deep differences between Athens and Ankara over issues ranging from maritime zones and energy to the status of Cyprus.

"There is a clear will of (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis' government to promote a positive agenda," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that Greece was interested in "a range of cooperation, especially in the economic sector".

"There were, and there are, differences," it said, adding that Greece was committed to upholding international law.

The statement followed an unusually open spat on Thursday, with both ministers trading accusations as they stood side by side at a media briefing during Dendias' visit to Ankara.

Erdogan said he himself had met with Dendias on Thursday in a "friendly atmosphere" but that the tone had shifted during the Greek minister's joint news conference with Cavusoglu.

"In the face of Dendias's behaviour and attitude, our foreign minister reminded him of his place," Erdogan told reporters.

"He couldn't act softly (anymore). So he (Cavusoglu) finished the job by taking the necessary stance and making the necessary remarks. Of course, we don't find this (Dendias's attitude) appropriate."

Greece and Turkey are NATO allies but are at odds over many issues, from competing claims over the extent of their continental shelves in the Mediterranean to air space, energy resources, ethnically split Cyprus, and the status of some islands in the Aegean.

Tensions flared last summer when Turkey sent a drilling ship to contested Mediterranean waters, but have eased slightly after Ankara withdrew the vessel and the countries resumed bilateral talks over their disputes following a five-year hiatus.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Ece Toksabay and Gareth Jones)

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