EU reaffirms solidarity with Greece and Cyprus



EU reaffirms solidarity with Greece and Cyprus 

EU reaffirms full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus 

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, held on Friday 14 August a video conference meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 27 EU Member States. The meeting aimed to address the situations in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Belarus after the August 9 Presidential Elections. EU Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the EU’s full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus during the meeting.

Concerns that the standoff between Greek and Turkish fleets over hydrocarbon exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean could lead to an armed confrontation escalated when two frigates collided on Thursday.

Greek frigate Limnos collided with Turkish frigate Kemal Reis shadowing Turkey's seismic vessel Oruç Reis, Kathimerini said.

Kathimerini said that the Greek frigate did not suffer any major damage but Turkish frigate Kemal Reis was heavily damaged. However, Turkey's pro-government media claimed the opposite, saying that Limnos was damaged. 

The incident will be discussed at Friday’s extraordinary European Union Foreign Affairs Council called by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell amid the sharp increase in tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

No decision is expected on sanctions against Turkey as the council does not have such authority. This, however, cannot be ruled out on August 27-28, when an informal summit of foreign ministers will take place.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also meet in Vienna on Friday to discuss the recent dispute between Turkey and Greece.

Turkey has said it plans to issue gas exploration and drilling licences in the eastern Mediterranean, and sent its Oruç Reis vessel near Kastellorizo on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Chris Von Hollen urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cooperate with the EU to stop Turkey's drilling efforts in the eastern Mediterranean.

"The United States and the European Union should immediately develop a plan of comprehensive joint sanctions that would be imposed on key sectors of the Turkish economy if Turkey continues to pursue illegal actions in the eastern Mediterranean and refuses to resolve these matters through an impartial international tribunal," Menendez and Von Hollen said in a letter ahead of Pompeo's meeting with Dendias.

Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean and called on Turkey to halt its “unilateral” exploration activities and enter dialogue with Greece. On Thursday, two French fighter jets and a naval frigate conducted joint military exercises with Greece off the island of Crete.

(All times Turkish time - GMT+3)

20.45 - EU Foreign Ministers reaffirms the EU’s full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, held on Friday 14 August a video conference meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 27 EU Member States. The meeting aimed to address the situations in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Belarus after the August 9 Presidential Elections. 

One of the main outcomes of the meeting was to reflect "solidarity, de-escalation, and dialogue", the EU official statement said. Ministers also "stressed in particular that recent naval mobilisations by Turkey do not contribute to finding any solutions."

A broader discussion about relations with Turkey will be held later in August, at the Gymnich, it said.

19.45 - EU should re-evaluate its relations with Turkey in light of its actions in Libya, Syria, N.Iraq and conversion of Hagia Sophia, Austrian FM Schallenberg says

During the press availability with Secretary of State Michale Pompeo in Vienna on Friday, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said his country finds the situation in Eastern Mediterranean "dangerous and alarming" which "could easily escalate." 

Schallenberg also stated that the "topic" of Eastern Mediterranean has "high urgency and high importance for everybody and especially for the European Union."

According to Schallenberg, "the actions taken by certain states in the Mediterranean from Libya, Syria, to north Iraq – even the reclassification of a world-renowned monument, the Hagia Sophia, as a new mosque – should lead the European Union to re-evaluate its relations with Turkey."

Pompeo, during the same press briefing, did not touch the Eastern Mediterranean, one of the hottest issue of the day.

19:00 - Turkey ‘won’t let any intervention go unreciprocated’, Defence Minister warns Greece, France

Responding to France increasing its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters on Friday that Turkey will reciprocate any and all actions against its vessels.

“One of our allies that has no relation to the region announcing an increase in military presence in Eastern Mediterranean is not compatible with the spirit of allyship,” Akar said. “We have not let any intervention against our vessels go unreciprocated, and we will not. We want all to know that we are determined.”

Akar called Greece “selfish” for “disregarding international law in the Aegean and Mediterranean,” and urged its neighbour to demilitarise the Aegean islands as per the Treaty of Lausanne.

18:45 - Turkey accepts Swiss mediation for East Med

Turkey has agreed to an offer for mediation by Switzerland “in principle,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday’s press briefing with his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis during a visit to Switzerland.

“We do not favour high tensions with Greece,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters. “But if Greece engages in harassment, it will get a response.”

The Turkish minister called for “diplomacy and common sense” for the European Union, instead of “further consoling Greece.”

15:25 - France should refrain from escalating East Med tensions, Turkish FM says

France should refrain from steps that escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.

Earlier this week, France sent military naval and air units to the region to conduct joint training exercises with Greece and Cyprus in response to Turkey’s seismic exploration efforts in disputed waters.

France “should avoid steps that will increase tensions”, said state-run Anadolu news agency, which cited Çavuşoğlu at a televised joint press conference with his Swiss counterpart in Bern.

“They’re not getting anywhere with that kind of bravado. I would like to say that such steps will not have an impact on Turkey,” he said, adding that his country would respond if Greece provokes the Turkish research vessel Oruç Reis operating between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

Ankara has agreed to Switzerland’s offer to mediate between Greece and Turkey, Çavuşoğlu said in a video posted on Anadolu’s website.

14:25 - Collision between Greek and Turkish warships an accident, Greek defence source says

The collision between the Greek frigate Limnos and the Turkish warship Kemal Reis was an “accident”, Reuters reported on Friday, citing a Greek defence source.

On Wednesday, the Limnos approached the Turkish navy-escorted research vessel Oruç Reis while the latter was operating in an area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, according to Reuters. Frigates from the Greek navy have been shadowing the Oruç Reis after it began surveying in disputed waters.

The Limnos came into the path of the Kemal Reis, which it had to manoeuvre around to avoid a head-on collision, and clipped the rear of the Turkish warship, the defence source said.

“It was an accident,” the source said, adding the Limnos was not damaged.

Reuters said the Greek naval vessel subsequently took part in a joint military exercise with France off Crete on Thursday morning.

14:00 - Greek FM to present visual evidence at upcoming EU foreign ministers meeting

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is expected to present photographic and video footage from the collision between the Greek frigate Limnos and the Turkish warship Kemal Reis in the eastern Mediterranean at an extraordinary EU foreign affairs meeting on Friday, Kathimerini reported.

On Thursday, Dendias said that he will inform his European counterparts about “real events” and “operational incidents” of recent days, according to the Greek newspaper on Friday.

12:50 - Turkey sends letters to EU diplomats ahead of bloc's foreign affairs meeting

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu sent letters to European Union foreign ministers and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about recent developments in the eastern Mediterranean, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.

The letters sent on Thursday came ahead of an EU foreign affairs meeting at Athens' request.

In the letters, Çavuşoğlu accused Greece of taking actions against Turkey’s interests, saying that the maritime boundaries agreement signed between Greece and Egypt last week demonstrated Athens’ reluctance to start an honest dialogue with Ankara, according to Anadolu.

He called on EU member states to support Turkey’s stance towards decisions taken against the country, which he said had proven its good intentions many times.

Similar letters were sent to U.N. General Secretary Antonio Guterres, foreign ministers of U.N. Security Council permanent members and NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, Anadolu said.

23:10 - Pentagon expresses concern over France-Turkey tension

A spokesman from the United States Department of Defence expressed concern over “some of the incidents that have taken place in the Mediterranean,” during a press briefing on Thursday.

Assistant to the Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs Jonathan Rath Hoffman said Turkey and France were “both incredibly important NATO allies, and we would like to see the tensions lowered.”

Hoffman said Pentagon would like to see the two countries “continue to work together and find solutions that do not involve the necessity of having warships or have aircrafts deployed in a less-than-cooperative environment.”

18:15 - Erdoğan holds phone call with Merkel

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the phone on Thursday, the Presidential Communications Directorate said in a statement.

Erdoğan told Merkel that Turkey “favours the resolution of issues in the Eastern Mediterranean within the framework of international law on an equitable basis and dialogue,” the statement said.


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