NATO says Turkey, Greece ready for talks; Athens denies deal

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Greece and Turkey have agreed to engage in dialogue to avoid a possible military confrontation in the east Mediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Thursday, but hours after the NATO statement a Greek official said talks were not possible unless Turkey withdrew its warships.

The two NATO allies came to the brink of conflict as tensions ramped up after Ankara sent a survey vessel, escorted by warships, to disputed waters purportedly rich in hydrocarbon resources. The ensuing escalation saw both sides dispatching navy vessels to the region.

“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,” Stoltenberg’s statement read.

“Greece and Turkey are valued Allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security. I remain in close touch with all concerned Allies to find a solution to the tensions in the spirit of NATO solidarity.”

Athens denied that such talks were to be held following the announcement.

Stoltenberg’s statement “does not correspond with reality,” according to a Greek official who spoke to The Associated Press.

“De-escalation would only be achieved with the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf,” AP quoted the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying.

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