EU holds urgent talks over escalating Greece & Turkish tensions

European Union foreign ministers held urgent talks Friday on military tensions between Greece and Turkey as the neighbouring countries’ navies continued a game of brinkmanship over eastern Mediterranean drilling rights, AP Europe reports.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would press ahead with its search for oil and gas in the disputed waters until August 23rd as planned. However, following a phone call with German’s leader, he signaled that Ankara and Berlin had agreed to a “softening” of positions after that date.

There was no indication from Athens whether it had been consulted, or agreed, on the matter.

Erdogan warned that Turkey would strongly respond to any “harassment” of its vessels by Greece. Turkey has a research ship accompanied by two warships prospecting between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, and Greece deployed its own naval vessels to the area. France has boosted its naval presence in the region.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias traveled to Vienna to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Dendias said he and Pompeo had “an open explanation of what’s happening.”

“I hope there will be no conflict if everybody keeps his mind and everybody acts according to international law, international law of the sea,” the minister said, referring to Greece’s tensions with Turkey. “Everything can be resolved, but this is a question that you have to put to the Turks.”

The emergency EU meeting, which has the political crisis in Belarus as the main item on the agenda, was held by video conference.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said ahead of the talks that “the provocations” that are happening in the eastern Mediterranean “can’t continue.”

“Nor can the Turkish drilling,” he said. “We are working toward a direct dialogue between the parties that would contribute to finding a solution for this issue.” Maas added that there should be no drilling during the negotiations.

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