Talks have begun to resolve the dispute between Greece and Turkey over the Eastern Mediterranean, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday.
“We believe that there is a need to have technical talks on how to develop enhanced mechanisms for deconfliction”, the secretary general said at a press briefing after the meeting of NATO ambassadors.
“No agreement has been reached yet, but the talks have started,” Stoltenberg added.
His speech confirmed the fact that Greece had indeed agreed to enter into negotiations with Turkey to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On Thursday, Stoltenberg announced that Turkey and Greece agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean, which the Greek government denied later on.
Responding to Greece’s denial, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday: "It is noteworthy that Greece lied about NATO secretary general. They [Athens] initially agreed then told they did not. It is in fact Greece that is lying and not the secretary general."
“Greece once again showed they are not in favor of dialogue”, he added.
Peter Stano, the European Commission’s lead spokesman on foreign affairs, also highlighted the importance of negotiations on Friday.
“The only way forward is dialogue and engagement to bring tensions down,” he told at the European Commission’s daily news conference.
The bloc wishes to see talks between Greece and Turkey as soon as possible, he stated, pointing out that de-escalation of tensions serves the interest of Turkey, Greece, and the whole European Union.
Turkey resumed energy exploration earlier this month in the Eastern Mediterranean after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal.
Greece and other countries have tried to box in Turkey’s maritime territory and energy exploration rights, despite no country having a longer coastline on the Mediterranean.
Turkey has consistently opposed Greek efforts to declare a huge exclusive economic zone, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.
Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) -- which has issued Turkish state oil company Turkish Petroleum a license -- and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.
- Navalny poisoning
At the same news conference, Stoltenberg also spoke about the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
“All allies today are united in condemning this attack” which was beyond doubt carried out by using the military-grade chemical agent Novichok, he said.
The military alliance calls on the Russian government to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and to disclose completely its Novichok program, the NATO chief added.
By Agnes Szucs in Brussels