Turkey and Greece arrange navy hotline amid power tensions

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Turkey and Greece have set up a military hotline to reduce the risk of clashes in the Mediterranean, where the two stand in line because of energy resources and maritime borders.

The move was announced by the NATO military bloc, to which both countries belong.

Tensions increased this year when Turkey dispatched a research vessel to a disputed area.

It came when EU leaders met to discuss the bloc’s thorny relations with Turkey.

Turkey has been a long-term candidate for membership of the European Union, but efforts have stalled. EU heads of state and government criticized Turkey’s human rights and rule of law records, especially after the failed military coup in 2016.

However, Turkey remains an important partner for the EU. Turkey is home to millions of migrants and has signed an agreement with the EU that limits the number of migrants arriving in nearby Greece.

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The announcement of a hotline followed talks between Turkey and Greece at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“I welcome the establishment of a military conflict resolution mechanism, which was achieved through the constructive engagement of Greece and Turkey, which both NATO allies value,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“This security mechanism can help create the space for diplomatic efforts to resolve the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further.”

Such mechanisms allow direct communication between two sides – Russia and the US established one during the Cold War and have been operating ever since.

In August, two Turkish and Greek warships collided in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions have eased somewhat since then, as the Turkish research vessel left the area last month and both sides said they were ready to resume talks.

The news of the hotline came when the heads of state and government of the EU came to Brussels for a summit. The bloc supported its members Cyprus and Greece against Turkey.

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the Turkish “provocations” should stop.

“One thing is certain: the Turkish provocation, whether manifested through unilateral actions or extreme rhetoric, can no longer be tolerated,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said support for Greece and Cyprus – which also has claims to Mediterranean resources – is “non-negotiable”, while Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for sanctions against Turkey.

However, the EU disagreed on how to deal with Turkey and the divisions moved onto another important item on the agenda – Belarus. After a controversial election, the bloc refused to recognize Alexander Lukashenko as president.

Cyprus has blocked EU attempts to impose sanctions on Belarus and wanted the EU to impose them on Turkey first.

Image rightsReutersImage descriptionThe Turkish drilling ship Yavuz was escorted to the coast of Cyprus by a Turkish naval ship last year

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