The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said Turkey and Greece will discuss ways to ease tensions triggered by Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
“The two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the eastern Mediterranean,” Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general, said in an emailed statement on Thursday in Brussels.
Strains between Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, over contested territorial waters have been mounting in recent weeks as the Turkish government pursues energy exploration. The row has raised concerns about a military confrontation between the two countries.
“I remain in close touch with all concerned allies to find a solution to the tensions in the spirit of NATO solidarity,” Stoltenberg said.
A Greek official, who asked not to be named, questioned NATO’s account.
The official said the only de-escalation that Greece would recognize would be the immediate removal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf. Handing out a document with a request for comments within a week does not constitute the beginning of a dialog, the official added.
The Foreign Ministry also emphasized that they expect Athens to support this initiative as well, reiterating that Ankara “is ready for dialogue with Greece, without preconditions, in order to find permanent solutions to all issues, within the framework of international law and in a fair and equitable manner.”
There was no immediate confirmation from Athens and it was not immediately clear when the talks would take place.
Greece has disputed Turkey’s current energy exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, and it attempts to box in Turkish maritime territory based on the proximity of smaller islands to the Turkish coast.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean – has sent out drillships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that Ankara and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have rights in the region.
After diplomatic talks with Germany, Turkey had halted hydrocarbon exploration in the region. However, the activities resumed earlier this month after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal.
Ankara has said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Greek Cypriot administration in the south.
TRNC has issued the Turkish state oil company, Turkish Petroleum (TPAO), an exploration license.
NATO Secretary General statement on technical talks for de-confliction in the Eastern Mediterranean
Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two Allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Turkey are valued Allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security. I remain in close touch with all concerned Allies to find a solution to the tensions in the spirit of NATO solidarity.