German FM Calls for De-escalation of Tensions in Mediterranean


Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, appealed to NATO allies Greece and Turkey to enter into dialogue, and de-escalate military tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. He warned of a disaster unless a peaceful solution was found.

Turkish FM, Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned that if Greece took the wrong steps, Ankara would do what was necessary to protect itself without hesitation.

Maas toured Athens and Ankara in an attempt to mediate between the two countries which are at odds over maritime boundaries and marine energy rights. Both have sent warships and announced military exercises in an area between Crete and Cyprus, where Turkey has a ship conducting research.

Maas’ visits come ahead of the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Berlin later this week, as Germany holds the rotating EU presidency.

Maas said during a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, “What we need is a willingness for dialogue. Further escalation is not in the interest of Greece, nor in the interest of the EU, and also not in the interest of Turkey.”

“We discussed with Cavusoglu the dangerous situation in the eastern Mediterranean”, Maas added, “The matter does not only concern the European Union, but also NATO.” In Athens earlier, Maas warned after a meeting with Greek FM Nikos Dendias that “any spark, however small, could lead to a disaster.”

The Turkish vessel Oruc Reis has for weeks been carrying out seismic research and is escorted by Turkish warships. Greece, which says the ship is operating in an area where it has exclusive rights on potential undersea gas and oil deposits, sent warships to shadow the Turkish flotilla.

Maas explained that both Turkey and Greece reject any preconditions for the start of dialogue. He indicated that this matter helps create conditions for direct talks and expressed Germany’s readiness to support the process of urgent dialogue between the two parties.

In December 2019, Turkey signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), two MoUs on defence, gas drilling, and maritime borders in the Mediterranean. Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt have strongly criticized the agreement as this would allow Turkey to claim a large swath of the Mediterranean, infringing on the sovereign rights of regional neighbours.