Greece says it's close to resuming maritime talks with Turkey


Adds govt spokesman's quote, Pompeo's visit, background

ATHENS, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Greece is close to resuming talks with Turkey over maritime zones, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday, after Ankara this month recalled an oil and gas exploration vessel from disputed Mediterranean waters in a move welcomed by Athens.

NATO members Turkey and Greece bitterly disagree over maritime jurisdiction and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey infuriated Greece last month when it sent the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel to the area.

"We're close to resuming exploratory talks, but how soon this will happen depends on both sides, on Greece and Turkey. The sentiment is good," Petsas told reporters, adding that Ankara had also indicated its wish for a resumption of talks.

Previous discussions between Athens and Ankara on demarcating their maritime zones broke down in 2016.

Greek media say the exploratory talks could start as early as this week. Turkey has said its Oruc Reis vessel has been recalled to port for routine maintenance.

European Union leaders are expected to evaluate possible sanctions against Turkey at a summit on Sept 24-25, though member states are divided over how best to proceed.

Petsas said on Monday that Turkey had two choices. "Sincere de-escalation, with actions, or sanctions".

EU foreign ministers are also due to discuss the issue at a meeting on Monday. Greece and its close ally Cyprus are EU member states, while Turkey is a candidate to join, though accession talks are effectively frozen by various disputes.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States is "deeply concerned" about Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterrean and has urged a diplomatic end to the crisis.

Pompeo is due to visit Greece this month and Athens expects him to confirm U.S. support for its position versus Turkey, Petsas said.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and George Georgiopoulos Editing by Gareth Jones)

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