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Politics

NATO Chief Wants New Shot at Calming Waters With Greece, Turkey

After long saying he wanted no part of troubles between Greece and Turkey, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he would try to strengthen a so-called “deconfliction mechanism” to stave off fears of a conflict over rights to the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

That was put in place in October and almost immediately failed when Turkey, which had withdrawn an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, sent them back in again.

Facing the possibility of sanctions at a European Union meeting Dec. 10-11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew the ships again as they were being shadowed by vessels from the Greek Navy.

During long-running violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and warships, Stoltenberg said it wasn't the problem of NATO, although both countries are members.

“We have set up a de-escalation mechanism between Greece and Turkey, a line of communication between the two allies and the cancellation of specific military exercises,” Stoltenberg said after a virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

“I am committed to strengthening this mechanism so that there can be comprehensive confidence-building measures,” he added, repeating diplomatic language that has done almost nothing to reduce the tension. 

Turkey is claiming waters off Greek islands under a maritime deal with Libya that no other country recognizes, Greece countering with a similar agreement with Egypt that led Erdogan to cancel planned talks in Ankara earlier. 

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