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23 September, 2023
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International EastMed tension-diffusing efforts battling on

The US, Germany, and now NATO have vowed to contribute to easing tensions between Greece and Turkey, but the German FM said dialogue can only be fostered if military exercises are halted


International moves to de-escalate tension in the eastern Mediterranean continued on Tuesday, with the German Chancellor holding a tete-a-tete with the NATO Secretary General and the kickstarting of the informal meetings of EU ministers in Berlin, where regional tensions were at the top of the agenda.

The meetings come amid the echoes of Washington’s intervention on Wednesday night through telephone calls made by the US President Donald Trump to both the Greek PM and the Turkish President.

Trump assured the Greek leader that Washington has expressed its discontent to Ankara over ongoing activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The American president told Mitsotakis that his aim was to de-escalate tensions in the region.

At the joint press conference on Thursday between the German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the European Union defense ministers' informal meeting in Berlin, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “we are all concerned about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. And I welcome your [Germany’s] efforts to find a constructive way forward,”

“I am in constant touch with Greece and Turkey. My message is that the situation must be resolved in a spirit of Allied solidarity, and in line with international law,” he said, adding that “dialogue and de-escalation are in everybody’s interest.”

At meeting that followed later with the Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias, Stoltenberg vowed to take steps to help defuse the situation.

Merkel on her part said Germany has made intense efforts to facilitate a de-escalation of the ongoing situation in the eastern Mediterranean.

Prior the initiation of the informal Foreign Affairs Council, the German foreign minister Heiko Maas highlighted the need for both Greece and Turkey to take action to calm tensions.

“We need a diplomatic solution… No one wants the dispute to be resolved with warships in the eastern Mediterranean. Direct dialogue must take place between Athens and Ankara. The situation remains very difficult. The prerequisite for these talks is the termination of the naval exercises underway in the eastern Mediterranean. Both sides can contribute to this, in this way making space for diplomatic talks,” Maas said.

Maas added that he made a renewed call for the creation of direct Greek-Turkish talks in view of preventing military conflict.

Referring to the emergency European Council meeting that has been called for September 24-25 to discuss Turkey, Mass expressed the hope that a solution to the Greek-Turkish dispute will be found by that time.

“If this does not happen, we will have a very problematic situation as regards a dialogue between the EU and Turkey.”

Greece on Friday called for European Union sanctions on Turkey amid lingering tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“I am waiting with great interest for Josep Borrell’s announcement on the options for sanctions on Turkey,” Dendias said of the EU’s foreign policy chief ahead of an informal meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Berlin.

“We consider this an absolute necessity in order to achieve a de-escalation in the Mediterranean,” he said.

However, Germany is reportedly concerned that imposing sanctions on Turkey would undermine efforts to reach an understanding with Ankara.

In doorstep comments on Thursday ahead of the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Berlin, Josep Borrell noted that “only political proposals” would be made during the conference, which will address developments in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the situation in Belarus and the EU’s relationship with Russia.

Greece  |  Turkey  |  Germany  |  EU  |  Cyprus  |  NATO  |  eastern Mediterranean  |  tension  |  de-escalation  |  energy  |  military  |  exercise  |  US

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