May 12, 2015 / 10:14 AM / 2 years ago

Turkey, Greece agree Aegean security measures, talk up Cyprus progress

Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (R), Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) and UN envoy Espeth Barth Eide shakes hands, in Nicosia, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/ Yiannis Kourtoglou

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey and Greece have agreed new security measures in the contested Aegean Sea and are backing efforts to resolve a long-running dispute over Cyprus, the foreign ministers of the two countries said on Tuesday.

Ankara and Athens have a longstanding dispute over territorial borders in the Aegean, with warplanes from both sides regularly engaging in mock dogfights. The NATO allies have as recently as the 1990s come to the brink of war over such disputes

“We discussed security measures that could be taken to avoid unwanted results from military activity in the Aegean, and agreed on a series of measures to increase security in the sea,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a joint press conference in Ankara. He gave no details of the measures.

Cavusoglu and his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias, both spoke of progress in talks over the disputed island of Cyprus, due to resume on Friday.

Turkey is currently the only country to recognize the northern Cypriot state that was set up in the north of the island after Turkish troops invaded in 1974 in response to a short-lived coup by militant Greek Cypriots. The international community recognizes the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia as legitimate.

Efforts to find an acceptable solution have been stepped up in recent years, partially driven by discovery of gas fields off the island that could benefit both sides. But there are complex questions to settle over the powers of any central government over Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot territories and the autonomy they would enjoy.

“Turkey and Greece are giving their full support, the international community is giving its support. 2015 is a good opportunity, we do not want to miss this window,” Cavusoglu said.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Writing by Jonny Hogg, Editing by Daren Butler

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