US initiative on East Med tension to focus on EEZs

US initiative on East Med tension to focus on EEZs

An anticipated US diplomatic initiative aimed at easing mounting tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean is expected to focus on the issue of exclusive economic zones, amid concerns regarding the maritime borders agreement signed between Ankara and the Tripoli-based Libyan government.

America’s intention to get involved at the diplomatic level was confirmed in comments to Kathimerini on Wednesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a dinner he and Vice President Mike Pence held in honor of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' visit to Washington, where the Greek premier also held talks with US President Donald Trump.

The initiative is expected to start soon, according to sources, with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer planning a visit to Turkey next month, ahead of an already scheduled trip to Greece for the Delphi Economic Forum in early March.

According to sources, the drive will initially seek to enhance communication between Athens and Ankara with the aim of averting the possibility of a military escalation in the area via diplomatic talks, which is what the Greek government is also seeking. The Americans are also expected to deliver the message that Greece will not tolerate any violations of its sovereign rights.

Sources also said that Mitsotakis had indicated during talks with officials in US Congress this week that Greece has the means to respond to any efforts by Turkey to drill for natural gas reserves off the coast of southeastern Crete, in an area claimed by Ankara under its pact with Tripoli.

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