Without Greece, Merkel, EU Will Talk With Turkey Over Seas Dispute

Αssociated Press

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, pool)

Two days ahead of a scheduled showdown to deal with a dispute about Greece's seas, European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a videoconference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to try to de-escalate a brewing crisis and prevent a conflict.

It's due to take place Sept. 22, said Kathimerini, but will leave out Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis as he and Erdogan aren't talking to each other.

German Ambassador to Greece Ernst Reichel said last week that Merkel has made it her business to prevent military conflict between Greece and Turkey and try to get them to talk about boundaries in the East Mediterranean and Aegean.

She has refused to back Mitsotakis' insistence the EU sanction Turkey for entering Greece's Continental Shelf off the island of Kastellorizo, Erdogan sending warships to protect the energy research vessel Oruc Reis.

Turkey wants to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands, including Crete, under a maritime deal signed with Libya dividing the seas between them but Erdogan cancelled planned talks in Ankara between Greek and Turkish officials after Greece countered with a similar deal with Egypt.

Merkel earlier got Erdogan to pull out his ships but he sent them back after the Greece-Egypt deal, only to withdraw them again, he said, to give diplomacy a chance while simultaneously saying he won't make any concessions.

The United States has agreed with Turkey that the waters around the Greek islands are disputed and Erdogan has openly said he wants a number of them returned to Turkey as he doesn't recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries.