Russia offers to play role of peacemaker in the Eastern Mediterranean

Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow rejected any step that exacerbated tensions

Russia said it was prepared to act as mediator in the Eastern Mediterranean as tensions rise over Turkey’s aggressive search for energy reserves.

An already fraught situation was exacerbated in recent weeks as Turkish survey vessels and drill ships looked for gas deposits in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow opposed any steps that would cause the situation to deteriorate further after holding talks with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides.

“We would be ready to contribute to building good neighbourly relations in the event this is requested of us by those involved,” Mr Lavrov said.

He repeated the sentiment on Tuesday at a meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia.

“As far as your relations with Turkey are concerned, we are ready to promote dialogue, pragmatically, based on mutual interests and in search of decisions, which will be fair and based on international law,” Mr Lavrov said.

Greece and Cyprus, backed by the EU, accuse Nato member Turkey of breaching international law by operating in disputed waters.

But Turkey claimed it was defending its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots to a share of the region’s potential gas ­deposits.

Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus and instead backs the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island.

Mr Christodoulides accused Ankara of detablising the region and damaging diplomatic efforts to reunify Cyprus.

“It’s therefore essential at this juncture for the international community to intercede with Turkey, especially by all UN Security Council members like Russia, with the aim of immediately ending Turkey’s unlawful actions and behaviour that clearly don’t adhere to the framework of international law,” he said.

The EU is considering imposing sanctions on Turkey as a result of the dispute over its maritime boundaries.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been ­highly critical of Turkey’s operations in the region, will discuss the EU’s strained relationship with Ankara when he meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis this week.

Both men will attend a meeting on the French island of Corsica tomorrow, along with the leaders of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Malta.

Greek and Turkish armed forces have been conducting military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean in an apparent effort to underscore their resolve.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said ­yesterday that his country’s military drills were in line with Nato rules.

He claimed Greece was not in favour of mediation.

“We have given our support to all initiatives and have said that we are ready for a dialogue without any preconditions,” Mr Cavusoglu said.

“Greece, by saying ‘no’ to initiatives, has shown that it does not favour a dialogue.”

Greece said proper negotiations would not be possible until Turkey ended its provocations in the region by withdrawing its warships and research vessels.

On Monday, a Greek government spokesman said Athens planned to revamp its defence industry and bolster its military by acquiring arms.

On the same day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would not back down and called on the EU not to take sides in the ­dispute.

“Let me be very clear for those who stand against Turkey at the cost of risking their own citizens’ security and welfare that they hopefully won’t have to pay a heavy price when the time comes,” he said.

“We say at every opportunity that we are in favour of resolving disputes through discussions, talks, negotiations and reconciliation.”