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Greece, Turkey in Talks to Avert Military Escalation | NATO

Today, Greece and Turkey will bow to EU and NATO pressure and hold the first direct talks over their explosive eastern Mediterranean standoff in four years.

Greece, Turkey in Talks to Avert Military Escalation

Last week, Greece doubled its western territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) – the maximum allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

Greece and Turkey were on the verge of military confrontation last August, after Turkey launched its seismic survey ship Oruc Reis accompanied by a small naval fleet to explore for undersea oil and gas in Eastern Mediterranean waters which Greece claims as part of its continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but which Turkey disputes.

In a standoff that lasted close to three months, Greek armed forces were placed on high alert, with gunboats from both sides fanning across the Aegean as combat aircraft patrolled the skies above.

The discussions, described as exploratory rather than official, are the 61st time since 2002 that Greek and Turkish diplomats have met in closed session.

Since stalling in March 2016, bilateral relations deteriorated to the point where even communication between the countries’ foreign ministers had broken down. Against that backdrop any movement towards resolving differences is welcome, EU diplomats say.

Tensions between the rivals reached new levels of animosity last year after the Turkish president Erdogan, announced he was opening the gates to Europe and encouraged hundreds of thousands of migrants to cross into Greece.

Greece and Cyprus, strongly backed by France, say Ankara should be punished for its “provocative actions”, accusing it of engaging in “a game of cat and mouse” with the bloc whenever talk of sanctions emerges.

Despite last year’s unprecedented souring of relations with #Brussels, Turkey remains an official EU candidate member.

On Friday, Turkey’s foreign minister warned of all-out war if Greece elects to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean, saying other issues that divide the countries, including airspace and demilitarisation of Greek isles, should also be brought to the table.

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