German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas heads to Athens and Ankara on Tuesday in a bid to reopen the lines of communication between Greece and Turkey amid a fresh spike in tension between the two neighbors over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In Athens, Maas will be meeting with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the leader of the main opposition, Alexis Tsipras, before heading to Turkey in the hope of reviving stalled discussions between high-level diplomatic representatives of the two sides for the resumption of exploratory talks.
“Turkey and Greece are our NATO allies. There can only be solutions for the disputed questions surrounding the gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean on the basis of international law and in sincere dialogue,” Maas said before his visit to the two countries, The Associated Press reported. “The tensions are not just weighing on the relationship between the EU and Turkey. A further escalation can only damage all sides, but above all those immediately involved on the spot.”
Maas’ visits come ahead of an EU meeting of foreign ministers later this week in which Turkey will be discussed and a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece of “sowing chaos” in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding that “from now on, Greece will be responsible for all conflicts in the region.”
Erdogan’s comments on Monday came in response to Greece’s planned aeronautical exercises on Tuesday in areas included in the navigational advisory, or Navtex, issued earlier by Turkey extending the duration of seismic surveys by its Oruc Reis research vessel within the Greek continental shelf.
“The windows for dialogue between Greece and Turkey must now be opened further and not closed,” the AP quoted Maas as saying. “For this, instead of new provocations, we finally need steps toward de-escalation and a start to direct talks.”