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Greece and Turkey agree to 'technical talks' over east Mediterranean crisis

The two countries will hold dialogue to ease tensions over dispute on territorial waters, Nato announces
Tensions spiked in August after Athens and Cairo signed a maritime agreement (AFP/File photo)

Greece and Turkey have agreed to hold talks to prevent maritime clashes amid heightened disputes over oil and gas exploration in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean, Nato announced on Thursday.

Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance's secretary general, said in a statement that he had been in touch with officials from both nations, which are Nato members, to find a solution to ease tensions.

"Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two Allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at Nato to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean," said Stoltenberg.

"Greece and Turkey are valued Allies, and Nato is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security."

Tensions spiked in August after Athens and Cairo signed a maritime agreement laying claims to areas that Ankara also considers to be part of its territorial waters.

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One of the main sticking points of the dispute is Athens' claim to the waters around the Greek island of Kastellorizo, also known as Meis, that lays merely 2 km off the Turkish coast.

Last month, the Turkish navy dispatched a vessel accompanied by warships to conduct seismic surveys in the area. The feud over the disputed waters risked escalating into a military confrontation with Turkish media outlets reporting that Greece is mobilising troops on the island.

In August, France also sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean. "The purpose of this military presence is to strengthen the autonomous assessment of the situation and to affirm France’s commitment to free movement, to the security of maritime navigation in the Mediterranean and respect for international law," the French defence ministry said in a statement on 13 August.

On Thursday, the Turkish president told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that support for Greece's "selfishness" was "unacceptable", the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 

Earlier this week, Washington had also called for dialogue between Turkey and Greece.

"They need to sit down and have conversations about this and resolve this diplomatically," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday. "It is not useful to increase military tension in the region. Only negative things can flow from that."