There is a tense atmosphere between Greece and Turkey due to gas reserves in the Mediterranean. NATO has now announced its readiness to hold talks between the two countries. But Greece disagrees.
An initiative by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to mediate between Greece and Turkey in the dispute over gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean is difficult. The Athens government on Thursday night denied information from Stoltenberg that it had already agreed with Ankara to start “technical talks” about de-escalation. This is “not the reality,” said the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Greece: “Immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships”
However, Greece wants to maintain its intention to work on setting up de-escalation mechanisms, the ministry stressed. A de-escalation will only take place if there is “an immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf”.
Since the discovery of rich gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, there has been heated debate about their exploitation. Both Greece and Turkey claim the affected sea areas and support this by sending warships. Relations between the two NATO members are therefore extremely tense.
Stoltenberg had announced that the two NATO countries were now ready to hold talks to settle the gas reserves dispute. As part of NATO, the two countries wanted to “create mechanisms to avoid military conflict”. This should reduce the “risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean”.
Turkey welcomes Stoltenberg’s initiative
The Turkish government emphasized its support for Stoltenberg’s initiative. Turkey expects Greece to do the same, the Foreign Ministry said in Ankara. At the same time, the ministry stressed that the talks within the NATO framework would only revolve around incident avoidance and not sea borders and the right to promote energy resources.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) spoke in a video conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. According to her spokesman Steffen Seibert, the Chancellor underlined “the need to ease regional tensions”.