NATO Wants to Untangle Greek, Turkish Ships Knot in East Mediterranean

August 28, 2020

After refusing to intervene over repeated Turkish provocations against Greece, NATO – to which both belong is trying to come up with some way to prevent their ships in a standoff near the Greek island of Kastellorizo from clashing.

Under a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them, Turkey claimed parts of Greece's Continental Shelf where it sent an energy research vessel and 10 warships to start a hunt for oil and gas.

Greece countered with a similar deal with Egypt and sent part of its navy to the region to shadow the Turkish ships, raising fears there could be a conflict, accidental or otherwise.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who has repeatedly said he wants no part of the tango, told Reuters the alliance is considering measures to prevent a conflict but wouldn't say what they were, or if there are any yet.

“I am also exploring the possibilities of NATO developing mechanisms to prevent incidents and accidents, a set of deconfliction mechanisms,” Stoltenberg said in an interview, after meeting with European Union defense ministers who also don't have any answers.

“The fact that there are so many ships, so many military capabilities in a quite limited area, that in itself is a reason for concern,” Stoltenberg said, without explaining why it took him so long to realize that.

In military language, deconfliction – which isn't a word – can mean setting up communication links between rivals in the same theater, as the United States has done with Russia in Syria.

Stoltenberg said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’  shuttle diplomacy between Greece and Turkey should be supported to to calm tensions even though it didn't work and Turkey said Maas was siding with Greece

“What I think is important now is to support the German efforts to try to establish a platform for dialogue, for talks between two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece,” Stoltenberg said.

That repeats the same line the EU has spouted incessantly, NATO still not acting to try to ratchet down the tension yet.


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