Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

Greece hopes to avert war with Turkey in the Mediterranean

Athens and Ankara are locked in a years-long dispute over access to waters that are rich in natural resources

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, right, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak during their meeting in Vienna on Friday. AP
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, right, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak during their meeting in Vienna on Friday. AP

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Friday he hoped that all parties involved in a dispute in the eastern Mediterranean Sea will act according to international law and that there will be no conflict.

"I hope there will be no conflict if everybody keeps his mind and everybody acts according to international law, international law of the sea," he told reporters after discussing Greece's dispute with Turkey over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Vienna.

Athens and Ankara are locked in a years-long dispute over rights to the resource-rich waters of the eastern Mediterranean but the situation has escalated in recent days, with naval manoeuvres bringing rival forces into close proximity.

The US State Department said in a statement that the two ministers discussed "the urgent need to reduce tensions in the eastern Mediterranean" without providing more detail.

"Everything can be resolved, but this is a question that you have to put to the Turks," Mr Dendias said.

European Union foreign ministers, who have already imposed sanctions on two Turkish energy executives over Turkey's operations in the eastern Mediterranean, were also scheduled to discuss the situation on Friday.

The meeting came as a minor collision between a Greek and Turkish warship was made public.

A Greek defence source called it an accident, but Turkey described it as a provocation.

At the heart of the disagreement are overlapping claims to parts of the eastern Mediterranean Sea that border the many Greek islands in the region.

Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, have repeatedly been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies.

"Everything can be resolved, but this is a question that you have to put to the Turks," Mr Dendias said.

Tensions have risen this week after Turkey sent a survey vessel to the region, escorted by warships, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling in an area where Turkey and Greece both claim jurisdiction.

Asked whether he agreed with Mr Pompeo on what to do about the issue, the Greek minister said the meeting was "cordial" and the two had "an open explanation of what's happening".

European Union foreign ministers, who have already imposed sanctions on two Turkish energy executives over Turkey's operations in the eastern Mediterranean, were also scheduled to discuss the situation on Friday.

Updated: August 15, 2020 03:33 AM

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