German top diplomat to visit Ankara, Athens to defuse tension

German top diplomat to visit Ankara, Athens to defuse tension

German top diplomat to visit Ankara, Athens to defuse tension

Germany is launching a new mediation effort between Turkey and Greece to defuse the tension over the disputed continental shelf areas in the eastern Mediterranean ahead of the European Union’s informal foreign ministers’ meeting on Aug. 27.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will be visiting Athens and Ankara on Aug. 25 to meet first with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, and then Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The objective of Maas’ shuttle diplomacy is to reduce the tension between the two NATO allies and its neighbors as well as to resume Turkish-Greek talks for a peaceful solution to the problems in the Aegean and Mediterranean.

An earlier attempt by Germany has failed after Greece signed a maritime demarcation agreement with Egypt, just a day before Ankara and Athens would simultaneously announce the resumption of “the exploratory talks” as a result of German mediation.

Angered with the Greek move, Turkey has dispatched its research vessel Oruç Reis to the Mediterranean to restart seismic works in an area that Greece claims it to be under its continental shelf. Turkey denies the Greek claims.

A NAVTEX, an advisory to the sailors issued by Turkey, notifies that the Oruç Reis will end its work in the area by Aug. 23.

Maas’ visit to the Turkish and Greek capitals comes as Turkey is planning to withdraw its survey ship from the contested area, paving the way for probable diplomacy. Germany is hoping to broker a meeting with the participation of the senior advisors of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis under the mediation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top aide.

Maas, whose country is serving the EU term presidency, will host EU foreign ministers at an informal meeting on Aug. 27, where the tension in the Mediterranean will also be in perspective. Maas plans to hold the three-way advisors’ meeting on Aug. 28.

The EU will hold a special summit at the leaders’ level in late September under the leadership of Charles Michel, president of the EU Council. Greece and France are pressing to impose harsh sanctions on Turkey to deter its activities in the Mediterranean. Many EU countries, including Germany, Italy and Spain, are not endorsing sanctions against Turkey as they believe it will only further deteriorate the situation.