Tactical Talk: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Greece of backtracking on an agreement to hold the technical talks – which will not address Turkey’s Mediterranean mission, but could discuss establishing a hotline between the two militaries and consistent use of naval call signs.
“If Greece believes in itself, if it has the courage and trusts its thesis, then … let it come and sit at the table,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara.
Athens says that any discussion requires the departure of Turkish vessels from contested waters and a Greek source told Reuters their presence was causing tensions and a “concentration of a great number of military forces in the area”.
Greece seeks dialogue but not “under threats, blackmail and provocations,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said.
US seeking ‘de-escalation’ in eastern Mediterranean
Washington: America’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo left Washington on Sunday for Greece, where he intends to call for the de-escalation of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and encourage a nascent dialogue with Turkey.
The secretary of state’s first stop on a mini European tour will be Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, on Monday, where he will meet his counterpart Nikos Dendias. On Tuesday he will head for Crete to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and visit the NATO naval base in Souda Bay.
The tour also includes stops in Italy, the Vatican and Croatia. Greece and fellow Nato member Turkey are at loggerheads over energy exploration in disputed waters after Ankara stepped up hydrocarbon research activities in the sea.
But on Tuesday they said they were ready to start talks over the tensions, which have been running high for weeks. The US has been vocal on “the need to de-escalate in the Eastern Med,” a senior US official told journalists before the tour, stressing that Pompeo had “expressed his deep concern.”
He also wants to embrace “the recent positive developments and the prospect of return to dialogue,” the official added. The official insisted on the need to reduce “the likelihood of any accidents or incidents,” and called for “Greece and Turkey to move forward on that and ideally be able to … complete an agreement.”