Athens, Greece – Greece and Turkey are close to reviving talks on a tense dispute over rights to exploit potential offshore natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean, a Greek official said Monday.

“We are close to restarting the exploratory talks.There will be an announcement when this is finalized but the atmosphere is good,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

Petsas also confirmed local media reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to visit Greece for a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss the crisis, but added that the schedule is still being worked out.

The two neighboring NATO members have been at odds for decades over maritime boundaries for commercial exploitation in an area between Turkey’s southern coast, several Greek islands and the war-divided island of Cyprus.

Under international pressure, Turkey pulled back a research vessel in the area while both countries have also eased their naval presence and halted military exercises.

Greek-Turkish talks on the issue were last held in 2016. In recent years, the dispute that has been fueled by soured relations between the EU and Turkey as well as the discoveries of large natural gas fields in other parts of the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey argues that Greek islands near its coastline should be excluded from the calculation of commercial maritime boundaries that far exceed the limits of territorial waters.

Greece calls the Turkish position a violation of international law but says it is willing to settle the dispute at an international court. [AP]