German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said that, after meetings in both Turkey and Greece on Tuesday August 25th, the two countries were ready for a dialogue that he hoped would defuse an ongoing dispute over energy resources in the Mediterranean.
Turkey and Greece disagree over who owns the rights to natural gas reserves off Cyprus and the related matter of the extent of various countries’ continental shelves.
The EU has been drawn into the confrontation, which earlier this month saw a light collision between Turkish and Greek frigates.
On Tuesday, following separate talks with Maas, the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey both said they wanted to solve the issue through dialogue.
Tensions between the two countries had increased after Turkey sent survey vessel Oruc Reis (IMO 9675470) to disputed eastern Mediterranean waters this month, a move that Greece said was illegal.
Maas urged Greece and Turkey to turn engage in talks, while adding that Germany and the EU stood with fellow member state Greece.
Speaking next to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Maas said that “no-one wants to settle this conflict militarily, which would be absolute madness”.
Greece on Monday issued a Navtex advisory stating that it would hold naval exercises in an area off the Greek island of Crete. This followed a Turkish statement on Sunday August 23rd that the Oruc Reis would operate in the same area until August 27th.
Greece’s advisory was in turn followed by a rival Navtex from Turkey that it would also hold drills there on Tuesday.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece wanted to talk with Turkey but would not do so “under threats.” He said that Athens stood ready to defend its rights, stating that the dispute was an issue for the entire EU and its security.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Berlin on August 27th and 28th to discuss the issue. A senior EU official told reporters that the bloc’s EU foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, would put “all options” on the table, including economic sanctions on Turkey and formally ending Turkey’s status as an EU candidate.
2017-built, Turkey-flagged, 4789 gt Oruc Reis is owned by Enerji Ve Tabii Kaynaklar care of Oras Denizcilik ve Ticaret Ltd Sti of Istanbul, Turkey