Germany has taken the lead in trying to calm tense Greco-Turkish relations following Ankara’s illegal energy exploration in the region.
The tension threatens to complicate EU nations’ efforts to tap new sources of energy that can reduce their dependence on countries such as Russia.
German Heiko Maas (photo) is visiting Athens and Ankara on Tuesday to try to put talks between the two rivals back on track.
But the difficulties became even more apparent when Athens and Ankara announced plans to stage sea exercises in the same region south of Crete on Tuesday. Neither side appeared ready to defuse the tension.
The Greek exercises have been announced in response to Turkey’s decision to extend the Oruc Reis mission by an extra four days to Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he might decide to keep the Oruc Reis out at sea even longer and accused Greece of behaving “in an unauthorized and spoilt manner.”
Athens dismissed Erdogan’s allegations arguing that Turkey was the one to lead illegal missions in waters within its exclusive economic zone.
Maas will meet Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis before flying to Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart.
It was not clear from the official statements whether Maas would also be received by Erdogan.
“We take the tensions there very seriously,” a German foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.
“We are worried that the tensions could further weigh on the relationship between Turkey and the EU and that further escalation could have grave consequences.”
Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “essential” to remain in dialogue with both sides.
“The aim is for Greece and Turkey to resolve their problems with each other directly,” the spokesman also said.