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Politics

Anxious Germany Wants Greece, Turkey to Talk, Not Shoot

September 17, 2020

Trying to prevent a conflict over a feud about East Mediterranean Sea rights, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to get Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to talk through their differences.

Merkel, who earlier persuaded Erdogan to withdraw an energy research vessel and warships from near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, spoke with him on the phone a few hours after talking with Mitsotakis, said Kathimerini.

Her diplomatic push comes ahead of a Sept. 24-25 European Union showdown with Turkey as Mitsotakis has demanded hard sanctions for Turkey's plan to drill in Greece's Continental Shelf and repeated violations of Greek airspace and waters.

The Turkish state-run Anadolu News Agency, citing leaks from Erdogan's office without naming sources, said the Turkish President told Merkel he won't back down down and would proceed with energy exploration. The Oruc Reis research vessel has pulled out but Turkey said it was for maintenance and would return.

Anadolu reported that Erdogan pointed out that the differences can be resolved through negotiations as long as there is a balanced approach and a “fair and consistent” attitude from the EU after he said Greece had to make concessions.

Turkish sources also said that Erdogan had asked Merkel for assurances that this time there would be no obstacles to the negotiations, to which she reportedly agreed with no explanation of what the Turkish leader specifically wanted.

Mitsotakis’ adviser Eleni Sorani, Merkel's advisor Jan Hecker, and Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s representative are the key figures for now with Germany holding the rotating, mostly symbolic EU Presidency.

Sourani and Kalin were said to be trying to get Erdogan and Mitsotakis to talk directly on the phone after Turkey broke off communications, leading to the Turkish leader ramping up rhetoric and bringing fears of a conflict.

Mitsotakis himself, in an interview ahead of The Economist conference in Athens said Greek and Turkish advisers are speaking and that perhaps he and Erdogan could to so that neither side takes a shot with their navies near each other. 

Mitsotakis said he was ready to launch exploratory contacts “very, very soon,” saying there is “a window of opportunity” for bilateral contacts as the EU meeting with Turkey looms.

Mitsotakis talked with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades about the meeting, with Turkey planning to resume drilling off the island in defiance of soft EU sanctions exempting Erdogan and top officials.

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