Germany says Turkey, Greece ready for dialogue on East Med dispute

By Lefteris Papadimas and Tuvan Gumrukcu ATHENS/ANKARA (Reuters) - Germany's top diplomat said after whirlwind meetings in Turkey and Greece on Tuesday the two were ready for dialogue to defuse an worsening dispute over energy resources in the Mediterranean, even as the NATO allies traded new barbs.

Reuters August 26, 2020 02:10:41 IST
Germany says Turkey, Greece ready for dialogue on East Med dispute

Germany says Turkey Greece ready for dialogue on East Med dispute

By Lefteris Papadimas and Tuvan Gumrukcu

ATHENS/ANKARA (Reuters) - Germany's top diplomat said after whirlwind meetings in Turkey and Greece on Tuesday the two were ready for dialogue to defuse an worsening dispute over energy resources in the Mediterranean, even as the NATO allies traded new barbs.

Turkey and Greece vehemently disagree over natural gas reserves off Cyprus and the extent of their continental shelves. They have drawn the European Union and nearby countries into the dispute, which earlier this month flared into a light collision between Turkish and Greek frigates.

On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey both said they wanted to solve the issue through dialogue following talks with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, but each warned that they would continue to defend their rights in the region.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece escalated after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel to disputed eastern Mediterranean waters this month, a move Athens called illegal.

After talks in Athens and Ankara, Maas urged Greece and Turkey to turn to dialogue, though added that Germany and the EU stood with fellow member state Greece.

"In both meetings in Athens as well as in Ankara I kept hearing that the only way to reach an understanding was to start a dialogue in which both differing standpoints were put on the table," Maas told a news conference in Ankara.

"No one wants to settle this conflict militarily, which would be absolute madness," he said, speaking alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Turkey and Greece meanwhile held rival military drills in the same theatre of the Mediterranean. Maas likened the dispute to "playing with fire" and warned that "every little spark can lead to catastrophe".

Greece on Monday issued an advisory, known as a Navtex, that it will hold naval exercises in an area off the Greek island of Crete, after Turkey said on Sunday the Oruc Reis would operate in the same area until Aug. 27.

Greece's advisory then prompted a rival Navtex from Turkey that it would also hold drills there on Tuesday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece on Monday of "sowing chaos" in the Mediterranean and warned Athens would find itself having to face the Turkish navy on its own.

WAR OF WORDS

Despite voicing readiness for dialogue, Cavusoglu said this could only happen if Greece abandoned its "maximalist demands", adding it was not realistic to expect Turkey to drop its rights with threats of sanctions.

"We are open to talks without pre-conditions. But, when one side starts imposing pre-conditions, then there are many things we will put forth too," he said.

"If you make statements like 'We will defend our rights. We carry out drills,' if you take wrong steps, we don't want to say we will make a mistake, but we will do what is necessary without hesitation."

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece wanted to talk with Turkey but would not do so "under threats". Athens stood ready to defend its rights, he said, adding the dispute was an issue for the entire EU and its security.

Germany also intervened last month, prompting Ankara to pause operations for talks with Athens. After Greece and Egypt agreed a maritime demarcation deal, however, Turkey resumed operations.

EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Berlin on Aug. 27-28 to discuss the issue. A senior EU official told reporters that the bloc's EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, would put "all options" on the table, including economic sanctions on Turkey and formally ending Turkey's status as an EU candidate.

Asked about the bloc's ties with Turkey, Maas said these were at a "crossroads" but Germany wanted to contribute to a positive dialogue. He said the course of EU-Turkey ties will "largely be decided" by the end of the year.

(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens, Orhan Coskun and Jonathan Spicer in Ankara, Madeline Chambers and Joseph Nasr in Berlin, Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.