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Politics

NATO Out – Germany, EU Want to End Greece-Turkey Impasse

September 6, 2020

With NATO unable to keep Greece and Turkey from each other's throats over who owns waters in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, it's been left to the European Union to finally consider sanctions against Turkey's drilling plans and Germany to be a mediator in preventing a conflict.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was able in August to get Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull back the energy research vessel Oruc Reis and accompanying warships from waters around the Greek island of Kastellorizo but they've returned.

Erdogan sent them back in again after Greece made a maritime deal with Egypt setting seas boundaries in response to a deal Turkey made with Libya – unrecognized by any other country – dividing the seas between them.

That led Turkey say it owns part of Greece's Continental Self and with plans to drill off other Greek islands, including Crete, where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay, the Greek Navy responding with ships shadowing their Turkish rivals.

As fears mounted that shooting could break out – and a Germa newspaper report that Erdogan wanted a Greek ship sunk to boost his popularity – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who had said he wanted no part of the trouble, finally jumped in.

He said he had gotten both sides to agree to talk but Greece denied it and that fell apart, leaving him nowhere in his attempt to find some way to de-escalate a growing crisis that even saw US President Donald Trump call Erdogan and Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis urging them to talk, lines of communication having broken off.

The EU, which had refused Mitsotakis' request for sanctions on Turkey and had issued only soft penalties for Turkey drilling in Cypriot waters, said unless dialogue finds a solution or Turkey pulls out before a Sept. 24-25 summit with Erdogan that tougher measures will be implemented.

European Council President Charles Michel said bloc leaders will come into that meeting with a “carrot and stick,” plan to essentially either reward Erdogan for complying or punish him for not.

Michel proposed a multilateral conference focusing on sea borders in the East Med including NATO which had refused to intervene to stop Turkish provocations between two members of the alliance.

Michel underlined the EU’s “full solidarity opposite Athens and Nicosia” in the face of Turkey’s transgressions, said Kathimerini, repeating the bloc's favored technique of issuing tweets and press releases without talking to reporters or taking action.

“We will identify tools in our external policy, a sticks and carrots approach – what tools to use to improve the relationship and what tools to react (with) if we are not being respected,” said Michel, who's expected to visit Greece and Cyprus before then.

He said the summit – the EU calls almost every meeting even if routine a “summit” – could be the best way to de-escalate in the region and offer a channel for dialogue,” Michel said.

“What is happening, what has been happening the last few weeks, cannot go on,” he said, although the EU allowed it to linger by doing nothing, apparently emboldening Erdogan who has alternately said he wanted negotiations or suggested military action.

Mitsotakis, who's been ignored, again appealed to Turkey to stop its provocations but that fell on deaf ears too.

“From all the many over-the-top statements that Mr. Erdogan has made, there is only one I retain, the one about dialogue, and I respond with these six clear words: Stop the provocations, start the talks,” Mitsotakis said.

“Turkey’s illegal activities demand an international reaction,” Mitsotakis said during talks with Yang Jiechi, China’s visiting foreign policy chief.

In New York, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York and gave him Greece’s proposals for a de-escalation of tension with Turkey but it wasn't reported what they were.

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