Turkey has apparently taken a step towards deescalation in the disputed Mediterranean waters by pulling back its drilling ship from southwest of Cyprus ahead of a planned visit by NATO chief.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to host NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Ankara later on Monday and discuss with him its dispute with Greece and Cyprus about maritime borders and energy rights.
The Yavuz drilling ship left the waters in southwest of Cyprus on Sunday and reached the Turkish coast on Monday morning, according to Refinitiv Eikon shipping data.
Turkish research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin, however, will remain off southeastern Cyprus and its operations there have been extended to October 18.
Turkey had sent the energy drilling ship to the disputed waters, when it began hydrocarbon explorations off the coast of the Cyprus Island in early July, 2019.
The vessel extended its operations in August this year as Turkey resumed its energy drilling operations in an area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The operations escalated tensions between the NATO allies, Greece and Turkey and prompted both sides to launch military drills in the waters.
Greece and Turkey have been locked in a long-lasting territorial dispute over hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean Sea.
On Firday, EU leaders threatened they could sanction Turkey if it continued drilling activities.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry brushed aside the threat by saying that “the continued use of the language of sanctions is unconstructive,” and that “the EU must now understand it will get nowhere with such discourse.”
In a development on Thursday, NATO announced that Greece and Turkey had set up a “military de-confliction mechanism” to avoid accidental clashes at sea.
A military hotline was set up for the purpose.
Stoltenberg will visit Athens on Tuesday for talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.