NATO optimistic about settling disputes between Athens, Ankara

DM Monitoring

ATHENS: Greece and NATO voiced optimism on Tuesday over the possible settlement of a drilling rights dispute between Athens and Ankara in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met here with visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who wrapped up a visit to Ankara one day ago as part of efforts to diffuse recent tensions between Greece and Cyprus on the one hand and Turkey on the other over drilling rights for energy resources and maritime borders which have caused concern beyond the region.
Last week Greece and Turkey agreed at NATO’s headquarters to establish a mechanism to facilitate de-escalation and reduce the risks of an “accident” in the area, while exploratory contacts between both sides are expected to start soon.
“The deconfliction mechanism can help create the space for diplomatic efforts. It is my firm hope that the underlying disputes between the two allies can now be addressed purely through negotiations in the spirit of allied solidarity and international law,” Stoltenberg said in a joint statement with Mitsotaki. For his part, the Greek leader reiterated the readiness for a peaceful settlement of disputes.
“It is up to Turkey to close the road to the crisis and open the road for a solution. We are ready to meet it on this second road, and I am optimistic that we will eventually follow this road because this road is for the benefit of both our peoples,” Mitsotakis said.
Mitsotakis said that the sole topic on the agenda of exploratory talks for Athens is settling the maritime zones in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. He welcomed Turkey’s latest steps towards de-escalation.
In the talks with Stoltenberg on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said NATO allies should demonstrate concrete solidarity with Turkey as “NATO has a very important role and responsibility to prevent attempts that risk the functionality of the alliance.” Following initiatives undertaken by several sides lately, the possibility of a “hot episode” in the region seems to have been left behind, according to Greek analysts.
Sotiris Serbos, associate professor in international politics at Democritus University of Thrace, said “the visible danger of militarization of the crisis between two NATO member states and the rift in its cohesion” pushed the United States to intensify its pressure on all parties to take steps back for de-escalation and the search for solutions through compromises at the negotiating table “U.S. and the EU will keep up the pressure on Turkey and Greece to resolve the issues through negotiation,” he said.