EU Foreign Ministers Fail to Agree on Greece-Turkey Mediterranean Row Statement

EU Foreign Ministers Fail to Agree on Greece-Turkey Mediterranean Row Statement

In a tweet after the teleconference, EU Foreign Policy High Representative Josep Borrell said the meeting had been “good and constructive”.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council, which consists of the foreign ministers of the EU member states, failed to issue a statement after a disagreement between Germany and Greece on the latter’s current Mediterranean Sea row with Turkey.

The Foreign Affairs Council meeting was held via teleconference on Friday, amid the escalating diplomatic conflict spiced up with military threats between Turkey and EU member Greece, after a Turkish vessel set out to carry a drilling survey close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

In July, Turkey issued a naval alert (“NAVTEX”) saying it was sending its Oruc Reis research ship to drill for natural gas near Kastellorizo, which itself is located a short distance from the southwest Turkish coast.

The move put the Greek military on high alert, and the ensuing war of words threatened to lead to an escalation.

Greece and Turkey have been disputing their maritime zones and shelf drilling rights for decades as numerous Greek islands lie very close to Turkey’s Asia Minor mainland. EU member Cyprus has had similar disputes with Turkey.

While Greece has appealed to the rest of the EU for support, Friday’s meeting of the Union’s foreign ministers did not produce a consensus statement after a wording dispute with Germany, Greek news site Ekathimerini reported.

The Greek side insisted on a harder line against Ankara that would have demanded an immediate end to Turkey’s exploratory activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It also urged the other EU member states to welcome a deal it signed with Egypt last week to demarcate the two countries’ exclusive economic zones.

According to the report, the German side was opposed to the reference to the Greek-Egyptian deal as it was signed just a day before the scheduled announcement of talks between Greece and Turkey mediated by Germany.

This led Greece to refuse to approve a proposed EU statement on the Belarus election results, which left the EUFAC teleconference without a joint statement.

In a tweet after the teleconference, EU Foreign Policy High Representative Josep Borrell said the meeting had been “good and constructive”.

“Eastern Med: Full solidarity w/ Greece&Cyprus; calling Turkey for immediate deescalation and reengaging in dialogue. Belarus: EU doesn’t accept election results. Work begins on sanctioning those responsible for violence & falsification,” Borrell tweeted.

In a statement released on Friday night by the EU External Action Service, Borrell went further.

“Ministers reaffirmed the EU’s full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. They reiterated that sovereign rights of EU Member States must be respected,” he said.

“At the same time, Ministers stressed that the serious deterioration in the relationship with Turkey is having far-reaching strategic consequences for the entire EU, well beyond the Eastern Mediterranean,” Borrell added.

After the teleconference and following talks in Vienna with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said he was satisfied with the condemnation of Turkey’s behavior and the support shown by Greece’s and Cyprus’ partners.

He said Greece remained open to dialogue with Turkey “but not in a climate of pressure of blackmail” and exclusively “on the one real point of dispute between us,” referring to the delineation of the continental shelf.

(Banner image: Wikipedia)

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