UK backs German efforts to resolve east Mediterranean dispute between Greece, Turkey

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UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace has thrown his support behind German efforts to mediate a dispute between Turkey and Greece over gas drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks after Turkey dispatched ships to the Greek continental shelf. Turkey accuses Greece of snatching an unfair share of maritime resources while both Greece and Cyprus have accused Turkey of breaching their sovereignty by drilling in the waters.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, in a bid to bridge differences between Greece and Turkey and get the two disputing countries to talk.

However, it remains unclear whether technical talks can proceed due to disagreements over pre-conditions. An effort by NATO to get the two disputing parties together at the negotiating table fell flat after Greece refused to meet until Turkey withdrew its ships from Greek waters.

“I have taken a very strict view with them. We need Turkey and Greece to get behind German efforts to broker a mediation and de-escalation of this,” Wallace said on Sunday during an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya.

Wallace stressed that the UK was “not here to take sides” and was interested in upholding international law.

Greece’s refusal to hold talks has incensed Erdogan. On Saturday, he threatened Athens to either come to the negotiating table or face consequences.

"They will understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military strength to tear up immoral maps and documents," he said at a hospital's opening ceremony in Istanbul.

Erdogan’s threat has worried European countries that tensions could spiral into a possible military confrontation.
“It is in no one’s interest for the East Mediterranean to become a place of disagreement between two NATO allies,” he added. “This is not what we want.”

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