In a move to restore transatlantic ties, the US commander-in-chief and his two EU counterparts stressed the need for “sustainable de-escalation” of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, with a final draft making reference to Turkey and international law after some words were left out.
US President Joe Biden met with President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Tuesday, after Washington had made clear it would reaffirm its commitment to NATO and the EU.
"America is back. We are committed - we have never fully left - but we are reasserting the fact it is overwhelmingly in the interest of the United States to have a great relationship with NATO and with the EU," Biden said as the talks began.
"The last four years have not been easy," said von der Leyen, with Biden admitting that he had “a very different view” from his predecessor, former president Donald Trump.
An earlier draft published and circulated online had included the term “international law of the sea” but this was revised later
In a joint communiqué the three leaders outlined a renewed transatlantic partnership, setting key objectives of cooperation for the post-pandemic era.
A reference was also included on the eastern Mediterranean, with the EU-US saying they “aim for a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with a democratic Turkey.”
“We resolve to work hand-in-hand for sustainable de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean, where differences should be settled through dialogue in good faith and in accordance with international law,” the joint communiqué said.
An earlier draft published and circulated online had included the term “international law of the sea” but this was revised later.
Turkey, which is among a few countries that have neither signed nor ratified the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), had argued against a “package deal” approach on the treaty, accepting some provisions but arguing against others including the application of the 12 miles territorial sea rule in the Aegean Sea.
EU-Med7 insist on Law of the Sea
Last week, foreign ministers of the EU-Med7 countries signed in Athens a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment “to continue to work closely on a vision of a stronger and more united Europe that adheres to its fundamental principles and values.”
Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, both Med7 countries that have signed and ratified UNCLOS, joined in calling “on all countries in the region to respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of all EU member states, as well as International Law, including Law of the Sea.”
The Med7 countries specirfically called on Turkey to abstain from “unilateral actions in breach of international law,” prompting Ankara to respond by describing the statement as a repetitive “one-sided and biased approach” that “advocates the maximalist claims and policies of Greek Cypriot-Greek duo on Cyprus and Eastern Mediterranean, can by no means contribute to peace and stability and enhance cooperation in the region.”
Biden meets with Putin
Washington recognizes UNCLOS as a part of international customary law but has not yet ratified the treaty, which also also permits a coastal state with a broad continental margin to establish a shelf limit beyond 200 nautical miles, such as Arctic coastal states like Russia, which has ratified it.
This week Biden made the move to restore transatlantic ties on his European tour ahead of a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday afternoon in Geneva.
Putin said in a recent interview that it was normal for Biden to touch base with allies and get on the same page on a host of issues ahead of the meeting between the two men.