Mediterranean war games must stop to allow talks: Germany

Telegram från AFP / Omni
27 aug. 2020, 13.52

Germany on Thursday called for an end to naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean Sea to allow space for talks between Greece and Turkey, at odds over gas resources and maritime borders.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin are discussing tensions in the area, where the two NATO members are locked in a standoff observers fear could accidentally tip into conflict.

Turkey on Thursday announced new "gunnery exercises" at the edge of its territorial waters in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean, after Greece -- joined by France, Cyprus and Italy -- staged its own war games.

"We need a diplomatic solution to this conflict... The preconditions for these talks are that these manoeuvres in the eastern Mediterranean, are stopped," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has tried to mediate between the two countries, told reporters in Berlin.

"For sure the parties will not sit down at the table when warships are facing each other in the eastern Mediterranean."

The EU has long been angered by Turkey sending ships on exploratory missions to drill for gas in waters claimed by Cyprus and earlier this year imposed sanctions on two Turkish nationals involved in the work.

The bloc's diplomatic chief Josep Borrell will present ministers with a "range of options" for dealing with Turkey, officials say, though he has been keen to stress the importance of keeping dialogue with Ankara going.

But there is pressure from some quarters for tough action on Turkey, and while the Berlin meeting is an informal one, with no decisions to be taken, EU leaders will focus on the issue at a summit next month.

"Europe's credibility is at stake. The European Union, a union of 27 member states, must stand up for international values, for a global international order based on the values and principles of the European Union," Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said as he arrived for the talks in Berlin.

"EU solidarity must be real and substantial."

His Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg said the eastern Mediterranean was an "ever-growing powder keg" where the number of naval vessels made incidents "almost inevitable"

"Turkey disregards all conventions... international law cannot be negotiated," he added.

Ahead of the Berlin talks, a senior EU official said Borrell wanted ministers to consider the bloc's relationship with Turkey in its entirety, stressing that whatever difficulties there might be, Ankara remained a "very important neighbour" that had to be managed.