Berlin and EU seek way to diffuse crisis

Berlin and EU seek way to diffuse crisis

The onus for mediating between Greece and Turkey and the simmering crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean has shifted to Berlin and the European Union following the apparent failure of the effort by NATO to broker a dialogue. 

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to mediate again, European Council President Charles Michel said on Friday that European Union leaders plan to adopt a “carrot and stick” strategy opposite Turkey at a summit on September 24 and 25 and proposed a multilateral conference focusing on sea borders in the East Med including NATO. Michel underlined the EU’s “full solidarity opposite Athens and Nicosia” in the face of Turkey’s transgressions.

“We will identify tools in our external policy, a sticks and carrots approach – what tools to use to improve the relationship and what tools to react [with] if we are not being respected,” said Michel, who is expected to visit Greece and Cyprus before the summit. Such a summit could be “the best way to de-escalate in the region and offer a channel for dialogue,” Michel said. “What is happening, what has been happening the last few weeks, cannot go on.”

On Sunday, Michel and Erdogan had a telephone conversation in which the European Council President expressed the bloc's solidarity with members Cyprus and Greece, but also the desire for a "constructive relationship" with Turkey.

Michel touted the benefits of de-escalation and called on Erdogan to avoid actions that ramp up tension. 

Meanwhile Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appealed to Turkey to stop its provocations. “From all the many over-the-top statements that Mr Erdogan has made, there is only one I retain, the one about dialogue, and I respond with these six clear words: Stop the provocations, start the talks,” Mitsotakis said. “Turkey’s illegal activities demand an international reaction,” Mitsotakis said during talks with Yang Jiechi, China’s visiting foreign policy chief. 

Also on Friday Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York and gave him Greece’s proposals for a de-escalation of tension with Turkey. 

The new flurry of diplomacy came in the wake of an initiative by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to launch talks between Greece and Turkey on “establishing an enhanced deconflicting mechanism.” After Athens rebuffed his claims on Thursday that such talks had begun, Stoltenberg said on Friday that the talks were technical and that no agreement has been reached.

While Athens was annoyed about the development, the NATO chief’s initiative is broadly seen as an attempt to create a climate for dialogue rather than launch any substantive talks, which is what the new push by Berlin is aimed at achieving. 

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