The US, Greece, “reiterated their conviction that issues of maritime demarcation should be resolved peacefully,” said a joint statement.
The Greek Prime Minister said he welcomed Turkey’s efforts to ease recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, but urged Ankara to be more determined to improve relations.
Relations between the two NATO allies and neighbors are fraught with differences of opinion, ranging from the maritime borders to the ethnically divided island of Cyprus.
Tensions escalated this summer as each side made overlapping claims over parts of the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey dispatched a survey vessel to investigate possible prospects for oil and gas drilling, furious Greece.
Turkey left the ship in mid-September.
“Our country welcomes a first positive step by Turkey to de-escalate the latest tensions”, said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Athens.
“It remains to be seen whether this is a righteous move or a short-lived maneuver,” Mitsotakis said, adding that Greece is committed to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve any disputes.
Last week, Stoltenberg announced the creation of a mechanism to prevent accidental clashes in the eastern Mediterranean to ease tensions between Ankara and Athens.
The “Entkonflikt” includes the establishment of a hotline to avoid accidents at sea and air. In August there was a small collision between Turkish and Greek frigates.
“It is up to Turkey to close the path of the crisis and open a path to a solution. We are ready to meet it on this second way and I am optimistic that this is the way we will take for the benefit of our two peoples, ”said Mitsotakis.
Stoltenberg said he believed the mechanism would also help create “space” for diplomatic efforts.
“I firmly hope that the underlying disputes between two allies can now only be addressed through negotiation in a spirit of allied solidarity and international law,” he said.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Chancellor Angela Merkel that the European Union’s summit decisions last week were not enough to overcome problems in Ankara-Bloc relations, his office said on Tuesday.
The Turkish Presidency said Erdogan spoke to Merkel via video conference and told her that the EU had succumbed to the blackmailing of Greece and Cyprus, which had demanded sanctions against Ankara.
The US has called for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
“The United States and Greece … reaffirmed their conviction that issues of maritime demarcation should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law,” said the United States and Greece, also NATO allies, in a recent joint statement after US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo had met his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.
Following the meeting, Pompeo described the visit in a Twitter post as “productive”, adding that both countries share a “common strategic vision”.
What a productive trip to Thessaloniki and Crete. We share a lot with Greece, including solid human relations, strong military cooperation and a shared strategic vision. The future is indeed bright. pic.twitter.com/YdlPGOjfMP
– Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 3, 2020
The US also welcomed Greece’s readiness to sign maritime transport agreements with its neighbors in the region, they said after a meeting in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
“We hope that the exploratory talks will not only get off to a good start, but that they will be resolved in such a way as to produce results that are more than acceptable to either of the two nations,” Pompeo told the Athens news agency.
Pompeo previously said the US was “deeply concerned” about Turkish actions in the eastern Mediterranean.
The US hopes to develop its energy relations with Greece, which wants to become an energy hub in the Balkans and help Europe diversify its energy resources.
Athens already imports large quantities of US liquefied natural gas (LNG). A floating LNG storage and re-evaporation plant is being developed in front of the port of Alexandroupolis, which is expected to conduct gas via the Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) interconnector pipeline to Bulgaria and from there to Central Europe by the beginning of 2023.
ExxonMobil, the French company Total and the Greek company Hellenic Petroleum have formed a joint venture that will search for gas and oil off the Greek island of Crete.
The US has also expressed an interest in privatizing the ports of Alexandroupolis and Kavala in northern Greece.
Pompeo and Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis have signed a science and technology agreement. The two countries want to work together on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, 5G and the privatization of strategic infrastructure.