ATHENS (Reuters) – Germany urged Greece and Turkey on Tuesday to solve their dispute over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea through dialogue, warning of the risk of a military confrontation.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass, who visited Athens and is also expected to visit Ankara on Tuesday to help defuse rekindled tensions between the two NATO allies, said Germany and its EU partners stood alongside EU member Greece.
“The current situation in the eastern Mediterranean is equivalent to playing with fire,” Heiko Maas said after meeting his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Athens. “Every little spark can lead to catastrophe.”
NATO allies Greece and Turkey vehemently disagree about their overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, based on conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend.
Tensions rose after Turkey deployed its Oruc Reis survey vessel to waters Ankara claims in a move Athens called illegal.
On Sunday, Turkey issued an advisory known as a Navtex to extend the vessel’s operations until Aug. 27. Greece then issued its own advisory that it will hold military exercises in the same area, off the Greek island of Crete.
After meeting Maas, Dendias said Greece wanted to talk with Turkey but it would not do so “under threats” and the country stood ready to defend its sovereign rights.
Dendias also said the Eastern Mediterranean dispute was not just a bilateral issue but one for the whole European Union.
“It concerns the European family as a whole, it concerns the EU’s sovereign rights, its … security,” Dendias said.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Berlin on Aug. 27-28 and will discuss the issue.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey’s navy will not back down as Greece “sows chaos” in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.