Greece hopes to avert war with Turkey in the Mediterranean

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Friday he hoped that all parties involved in a dispute in the eastern Mediterranean Sea will act according to international law and that there will be no conflict.

"I hope there will be no conflict if everybody keeps his mind and everybody acts according to international law, international law of the sea," he told reporters after discussing Greece's dispute with Turkey over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Vienna.

Athens and Ankara are locked in a years-long dispute over rights to the resource-rich waters of the eastern Mediterranean but the situation has escalated in recent days, with naval manoeuvres bringing rival forces into close proximity.

The US State Department said in a statement that the two ministers discussed "the urgent need to reduce tensions in the eastern Mediterranean" without providing more detail.

"Everything can be resolved, but this is a question that you have to put to the Turks," Mr Dendias said.

European Union foreign ministers, who have already imposed sanctions on two Turkish energy executives over Turkey's operations in the eastern Mediterranean, were also scheduled to discuss the situation on Friday.

The meeting came as a minor collision between a Greek and Turkish warship was made public.

A Greek defence source called it an accident, but Turkey described it as a provocation.

At the heart of the disagreement are overlapping claims to parts of the eastern Mediterranean Sea that border the many Greek islands in the region.

Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, have repeatedly been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies.

"Everything can be resolved, but this is a question that you have to put to the Turks," Mr Dendias said.

The Tonnerre is escorted by Greek and French military vessels. Greek National Defence/AP)

The French Tonnerre helicopter carrier, rear left, is escorted by Greek and French military vessels during a maritime exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Greek and Turkish warships are also closely shadowing each other. (Greek National Defence/AP)

The Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' heading west of Antalya in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkish Defence Ministry/AFP

Tension are high between Greece and Turkey, over the 'Oruc-Reis' and its mission in the eastern Mediterranean. IHA via AP

Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, have repeatedly been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies. Turkish Defence Ministry/AFP

Turkish ships accompany the 'Oruc Reis,' a seismic research vessel. Turkish Defence Ministry/AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for dialogue while still pushing ahead with a Mediterranean gas development plan that has outraged Greece. AFP

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned of the potential for a mishap with Greek and Turkish navies both in the area.. EPA

France will strengthen its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Reuters

Tensions have risen this week after Turkey sent a survey vessel to the region, escorted by warships, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling in an area where Turkey and Greece both claim jurisdiction.

Asked whether he agreed with Mr Pompeo on what to do about the issue, the Greek minister said the meeting was "cordial" and the two had "an open explanation of what's happening".

European Union foreign ministers, who have already imposed sanctions on two Turkish energy executives over Turkey's operations in the eastern Mediterranean, were also scheduled to discuss the situation on Friday.

Updated: August 15, 2020 03:33 AM

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