Athens & Ankara agree to talks, Stoltenberg says, amid maritime tensions between NATO allies

Greece and Turkey will meet for talks to reduce the likelihood of clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean and to establish deconfliction mechanisms, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has announced.

The two states are NATO allies, but have been locked in a naval standoff for a month, after Ankara sent a research vessel into disputed waters near Cyprus. The vessel was launched after Greece signed a drilling agreement with Egypt, a move Ankara claims is designed to force it out of the energy-rich waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, even though Turkey signed a similar agreement with Libya last year.

With the Turkish Navy currently holding live-fire drills near northern Cyprus, and France and Italy joining Greece for its own military exercises near Crete, tensions have steadily ratcheted upwards in recent weeks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Thursday that both sides have at least agreed to prevent “incidents” in the contested waters of 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 deconfliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out making any concessions to Greece, saying his country will take “whatever it is entitled to in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas.” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, meanwhile, has vowed to expand his country’s territorial claims in the Ionian Sea by 12 nautical miles from its coastline, a move that Turkey previously said would be grounds for war.

Despite the bellicose rhetoric, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier this week that Turkey is “ready for dialogue” with Greece.

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