Turkey said on Tuesday it is ready for talks with Greece without preconditions about an escalating row over eastern Mediterranean gas that saw the two uneasy NATO allies stage rival military exercises, AFP reported.
The olive branch came ahead of an informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Thursday and Friday at which Greece is expected to press the bloc to slap biting sanctions on its historic regional rival.
But EU nations would prefer to avoid irritating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shuttled between Athens and Ankara in a bid to temper the rhetoric and get talks back on track.
At stake is Europe’s secure access to newly discovered gas reserves as well as the stability of both NATO and the entire volatile region, which includes war-torn Libya and Egypt.
Maas secured only lukewarm promises from Greek and Turkish officials, who continued to air their grievances in the dispute.
“We are in favor of negotiations for fair sharing [of the gas], but nobody should lay down preconditions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said after the talks in Ankara.
“This cannot happen with preconditions laid down by Greece.”
After his own meeting with Maas, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Athens was “ready for dialogue — but this dialogue cannot take place under [Turkish] threats.”
Completing his delicate mission, Maas conceded that the dispute had entered a “very critical” phase.
Nevertheless, “no one wants to solve this issue in a militaristic way,” Maas said through a translator, “and there is a willingness on both sides for dialogue.”