Germany seeks to ease tension between Greece and Turkey over the eastern Mediterranean

The German Foreign Minister urged Greeks and Turks to engage in dialogue during his official visits to Athens and Ankara
The German foreign minister warned on 25 August that Turkey's confrontation with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean was at a "very critical" juncture, but stressed that both sides seemed ready for dialogue

AFP/ADEM ALTAM  -   The German foreign minister warned on 25 August that Turkey's confrontation with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean was at a "very critical" juncture, but stressed that both sides seemed ready for dialogue

Greece and Turkey could be ready for talks to settle the clash between the two nations over a part of the eastern Mediterranean that is rich in natural resources; however, hostility between the two countries continues to be felt following the latest statements by their foreign ministers regarding the contacts that exist to settle the dispute.

Following the latest talks in Ankara with the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, the top Turkish diplomatic representative, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that Greece must abandon what he called "maximalist demands". "We are open to talks without preconditions. But, when one side starts to impose preconditions, then we will also raise many things," he said at a joint press conference.

On Turkish soil, Maas called for "a sincere and direct dialogue" between Turkey and Greece and offered "Germany's support" for that. 

But Çavusoglu reminded that mediation had already been tried in July with Turkey postponing the search for gas and preparing a joint declaration "planned for August 7". "But only hours before, without warning, Greece signed an agreement with Egypt" to delimit its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in what was "a deception to Germany" and its "sincere mediation efforts", Çavusoglu complained in his statement to the media together with the German minister.

The Greek government presented that treaty as a tool to neutralize a similar agreement signed in November between Turkey and Libya, which planned a Turkish EEZ up to the coast of Crete. A pact sealed between the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the prime minister of the Libyan National Accord government, Fayez Sarraj, which ensured the distribution of EEZs in the Mediterranean arc and the Ottoman military support in the civil war in Libya by sending paid mercenaries from Syria. 

El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Turquía, Mevlut Cavusoglu, derecha, y su homólogo alemán, Heiko Maas, hablan con los medios de comunicación después de sus conversaciones, en Ankara, Turquía, el martes 25 de agosto de 2020
PHOTO/FATIH AKTAS - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and his German counterpart Heiko Maas talk to the media after their talks in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Maas also met previously in Athens with the Greek foreign minister, Nikos Dendias, who also indicated that his country wants a dialogue with the Eurasian country, but that it will not attend this "under threat". Furthermore, he stressed that Greece is ready to defend its rights and said that the dispute with Turkey is a matter for the security of the entire European Union (EU).

Heiko Maas explained that a military conflict between Greece and Turkey would be an "absolute madness"; referring to the last naval military manoeuvres of both countries in the area. "The situation is very risky, because in the end, whoever gets closer and closer to the abyss, may fall at some point. That is a fact we want to avoid," the German diplomat stated during his last presence in Ankara. 

Germany is the president of the European Union and has been trying to mediate in the talks between Greece, which belongs to the EU body, and Turkey, a member of NATO.

Greeks and Turks are engaged in a dispute over borders in the Mediterranean and rights to gas and oil exploration. Greece claims that there is a Turkish research vessel in its waters, over which it has exclusive rights to anything under the sea bed.  Meanwhile, Turkey insists that the EEZs of the Greek islands in the Aegean near the Turkish coast should be considerably reduced. 

The tension between Greece and Turkey over the search for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean is clear, despite the mediation efforts, including a crossing of accusations. 

The German foreign minister Maas met first of all with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Athens, where he insisted on the necessity of seeking dialogue with Turkey and warned both countries that playing with fire is highly dangerous and any "spark can lead to a catastrophe".

Heiko Maas stressed that both Germany and the entire EU support Greece on this issue, but added that messages of de-escalation are needed at this time.

Dendias, however, showed little inclination towards dialogue and asked that a catalogue of possible sanctions against Turkey be presented at the meeting of EU foreign ministers this Thursday and Friday in Berlin. "Turkey wants to create faits accomplis, we do not see de-escalation anywhere, but expansionist plans and a neo-Turkish ideology that wants to take control of the Mediterranean and destabilise the whole region, and all this outside the international law," the Greek diplomat denounced.