Turkey's defense chief on Saturday expressed hope that lawful solutions to the bilateral issues troubling Greece and Turkey will be reached at the talks set to take place in Istanbul on Monday.
"In talks with Greece, we hope that issues will be dealt with within the framework of rights, law and equity and that solutions are found," National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said at the opening ceremony for new Turkish-built ships in Istanbul.
Akar underlined Ankara's expectation that Greece "respects (Turkey's) rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean and avoids actions that may cause misunderstandings."
On Monday, Turkey and Greece are set to resume exploratory talks after a four-year hiatus.
The talks are expected to focus on bilateral disputes, including maritime boundaries and drilling rights in the region.
The two countries initiated exploratory talks to discuss the issues in the Eastern Mediterranean on March 12, 2002, to find a fair, sustainable and inclusive solution. The upcoming exploratory talks will be the 61st of their kind between the nations since 2002.
Talks were regularly held up until 2016, but there have been none since then due to political speculation and the Greek side's reluctance to sit down at the negotiating table.
NATO members Turkey and Greece participated in deconfliction talks last year, initiated by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Those talks were designed to reduce the risk of incidents in the Eastern Mediterranean. The talks facilitated the establishment of a hotline between Athens and Ankara, allowing for conflict resolution at sea or in the air.
On Saturday, Greece's foreign minister said he hopes that Turkey adopts a positive approach at the meeting next week aimed at reviving the long-stalled negotiations over disputed territorial claims.
"The only sure thing is the positive approach of Athens. I hope the Turkish side will come to these talks in the same spirit," Nikos Dendias told the Greek Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper in an interview.
He explained that the exploratory talks, which were put on hold in March 2016, were not negotiations but rather discussions to determine whether there was enough convergence between the two sides to allow for future negotiations on specific issues in the future.
"I want to be clear, that (subject) is the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean on the basis of international law," Dendias was quoted as saying.
If negotiations are to be carried out after the exploratory talks but the two sides are unable to reach a deal, they will have to agree on a text and refer the issue to the Internation Court in The Hague, he added.
While Athens only wants to address the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, Ankara says all issues should be tackled, including airspace and the status of some Greek islands in the Aegean.
"In the exploratory talks, there will be no discussion on demilitarising islands. No discussion on an issue that has to do with national sovereignty," Dendias told the newspaper.
Turkey and EU member Greece have been at odds on several issues. Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiation table and opted to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.
In order to find a solution to the dispute that favors all parties, last year Turkey proposed holding a conference with the participation of each Mediterranean nation, including the Turkish Cypriots, but the EU has yet to provide a concrete answer to the proposal.
“We want both communities to attend the Eastern Mediterranean conference; however, if it will not be possible for them to attend the main meeting, we can get them together in a separate format,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week during a visit to Brussels.
He reiterated that the region's natural resources must be fairly distributed between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides and said that the EU "disregarded the rights of the Turkish side."
"We conveyed to them that this trust needs to be reestablished," he added.