Long-time rivals Turkey and Greece have moved to calm tensions over exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean by agreeing to talks aimed at resolving rival claims to potential hydrocarbon riches.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said the talks will resume after a four-year hiatus following mediation by Germany, which has launched an intensive diplomatic push to reconcile the two sides.

Greece did not give a precise date for the talks, but Turkish officials expect them to get under way by the end this month.

Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis seismic survey ship into disputed waters, escorted by gunboats.

A Turkish and a Greek frigate collided during naval exercises, increasing fears of an accidental outbreak of hostilities between the two NATO allies.

Oruc Reis has now returned to the Turkish coast, paving the way for an easing of the tensions and raising hopes for a negotiated settlement.

Turkey said its decision to recall the seismic vessel was to allow for diplomacy ahead of a European Council summit on 22 September at which members Greece, Cyprus and France were to push for tough action against Turkey.

That event has now been delayed until next month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a video summit on 22 September with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been keen not to isolate Ankara.

According to a statement from the Turkish Presidential Communications Directorate, Turkey-EU relations were discussed along with the developments in the eastern Mediterranean at the tripartite summit that also involved EU Council President Charles Michel.

Erdogan said he hoped the upcoming EU summit will give added impetus to Turkey-EU ties which have been under strain amid intensified Turkish exploration efforts in waters disputed with both Greece and Cyprus.

Erdogan also called for a regional conference of Mediterranean coastal states, which he said should include the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to discuss maritime disputes.

Turkey has two exploration vessels in waters off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus, angering the UN-recognised Greek government in Nicosia.

Turkey is the only country that recognises the self-declared Turkish republic in the north of the Mediterranean island.

Erdogan said Ankara preferred to solve disagreements “justly and in an appropriate way” through talks, but added that “futile” attempts to exclude Turkey from plans in the eastern Mediterranean could not succeed.

Ankara is also contesting a recent maritime border demarcation pact between Greece and Egypt which in turn opposes a similar agreement signed between Turkey and war-torn Libya.

The Turkish-Libya pact covers an area through which the proposed East Mediterranean gas pipeline would be routed, feeding supplies to mainland Europe from gas discoveries in Egypt, Israel and Cyprus.

Ankara is also unhappy about being left out of the six-nation East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) which was officially launched on 22 September in Cairo to promote gas exports from the region.

Energy ministers from Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan signed the EMGF charter this week in a virtual ceremony to formally establish the inter-governmental organisation.

France, a staunch supporter of EU sanctions against Turkey for its disputed exploration efforts in the eastern Mediterranean, has formally asked to join the forum.