ATHENS / ISTANBUL (dpa-AFX) – Greece denies statements by NATO that Athens and Ankara have agreed technical talks to avoid military incidents in the eastern Mediterranean. Although one is ready to hold such talks within the alliance, the prerequisite for this is that Turkey first withdraws all ships from Greece’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as the German Press Agency learned on Thursday evening from circles of the Greek Foreign Ministry.
The denial of Athens came shortly after an announcement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that both NATO states were ready for talks to defuse the conflict within the framework of the alliance. A NATO spokeswoman did not comment on Athens’ stance at the request of the German press agency. She only pointed out that there had already been a technical meeting between Turkey and Greece on Thursday at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
International players are currently doing all they can to avert the escalation in the gas dispute between Turkey and Greece. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Thursday evening via video conference about the conflict. According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Erdogan criticized Greece’s stance as selfish and unjustified and condemned countries that supported Athens.
France, among others, recently increased the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean as a sign of solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Merkel had already tried several times to mediate in the conflict. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) also traveled to Turkey and Greece for talks without being able to bring the two NATO partners together.
The background to this is the dispute between NATO partners over natural gas in the Mediterranean, which has been escalating for weeks. Greece accuses Turkey of illegally exploring deposits off Greek islands. The government in Ankara, however, rejects the allegations and takes the position that the waters in which natural gas is being drilled on a trial basis belong to the Turkish continental shelf.
In the course of military maneuvers in the sea area, there was recently even a collision between a Greek and a Turkish warship. Turkey accuses Greece of being responsible for the clash.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg is trying, like the federal government, to mediate in the dispute. That is why he had recently spoken to top politicians on both sides several times./aha/DP/zb