NATO secretary-general set to visit Turkey after tensions recede in east Med

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will pay a visit to senior government figures in Turkey on Oct. 5, as the alliance tries to defuse a dangerous stand-off between the two member states.

Stoltenberg is expected to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Ankara and continue his talks in Athens on Oct. 6.

The visit comes after NATO initiated de-confliction talks yielded its initial outcome after tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Greece has disputed Turkey’s rights to energy exploration.

Turkey deployed an exploration vessel with a naval escort to seek gas, infuriating Athens, and France deployed fighter jets to defend Greece and “EU sovereignty.” Tensions have begun to recede after Germany led a European diplomatic outreach and Stoltenberg’s NATO helped the neighbors set up a military hotline to head off accidental clashes.

After several preliminary talks held at the NATO headquarters in the past few weeks, Stoltenberg announced the “de-confliction mechanism” on Oct. 1 and said NATO would “create the space for diplomatic efforts to address the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further.”

The mechanism is designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the eastern Mediterranean. It includes the creation of a hotline between Greece and Turkey, to facilitate de-confliction at sea or in the air,” a statement of NATO.

Turkish and Greek military delegations reached a “common understanding on general principles” on the eastern Mediterranean in meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on Oct. 1.

Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting its own rights in the region as well as those of Turkish Cyprus.

Hurriyet Daily News

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