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Politics

Greece Wants US, Germany to Get Turkey to Back Off The Seas

August 31, 2020

ATHENS – Besieged by a jumping COVID-19 rate and a sputtering economy brought down by the pandemic, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is hoping the United States and Germany can be a peace broker and convince Turkey to pull back an energy hunt in Greek waters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was able to persuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier to do that but he sent back the research vessel Oruc Reis and 10 warships near the Greek island of Kastellorizo after Greece signed a deal with Egypt marking seas boundaries.

That was in response to a Turkey-Libya deal dividing the waters between them and leading to claims of some of Greece's Continental Shelf and Erdogan saying there would be drilling off Crete too, where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay.

US President Donald Trump spoke with Erdogan on the phone and twice with Mitsotakis, saying he wants to de-escalate the crisis even as he has shown favoritism toward the Turkish leader, whom he said is a friend and great leader.

A conflict could engulf the entire region while the pandemic is still going on and further batter Turkey's economy, which suffered even more with tourists avoiding international travel and air traffic far from returning to normal.

Greece is girding for more Turkish provocations with the European Union, which had been timid in its dealings with Erdogan, now moving toward possibly considering staggered sanctions.

There had been reluctance to provoke Erdogan too much, fearful he would unleash on the bloc through Greek islands and the land border more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war, strife, and economic hardship in their homelands.

Greece is holding more than 100,000 of them, including more than 34,000 on five Greek islands near the coast of Turkey, which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them, albeit in smaller numbers, during the pandemic.

With so much at stake, Germany has tried to play a bigger role although refusing to back Mitsotakis' insistence on hard sanctions for Turkey after the EU imposed light penalties for Turkish drilling off Cyprus, exempting Erdogan.

With Trump facing a difficult election in a couple of months, the support of the Greek Diaspora has gained in significance, said Kathimerini, the President having big support from Greek-Americans despite his uncertain stance about Greece.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tried shuttle diplomacy between Athens and Ankara but had the door closed on him, getting nowhere after Erdogan earlier canceled planned talks in Turkey when Greece made its deal with Egypt.

Maas made it clear that some kind of sanctions will be unavoidable at the end of September if Turkey continues with its provocations, that date coinciding with a critical EU meeting with Erdogan.

Mitsotakis upped the ante when he said Greece would double its territorial boundaries in the Ionian Sea off the west coast to 12 miles and hinted he might move to do the same in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, which Turkey said would be a cause for war, something the paper said the US and Germany do not want.

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