Stoltenberg closes tour of Ankara, Athens without dialogue date

Athens, Oct 6 (efe-epa).- Greece and Turkey have taken an important first step towards de-escalating their conflict with the help of NATO but show no signs of resuming political dialogue.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg visited Ankara and Athens on Monday and Tuesday but his trip has not shed light on the path both countries plan to take after they created a deconfliction mechanism to avoid possible conflict due to a military accident in the eastern Mediterranean.

Stoltenberg welcomed the initiative after meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis but made it clear that it is only a first step.

He said the hotline will be “available 24 hours a day to facilitate deconfliction at sea and in the air”.

He added that the mechanism “can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts” and that NATO is “ready to develop it further”.

“It is my firm hope that the underlying disputes between the two allies can now be addressed purely through negotiations in the spirit of allied solidarity and international law,” he continued.

Greece and Turkey agreed last week through NATO to create a telephone hotline to resolve possible maritime or air conflicts.

Mitsotakis stressed that while the initiative is important and should be celebrated, it is only a technical matter and that what is important is political dialogue and that both countries define their maritime zones by mutual agreement.

The Greek leader welcomed the first de-escalation steps taken by Turkey, such as the withdrawal of drilling vessels from waters in exclusive economic zones belonging to Cyprus and Greece, but stressed that the important thing is that these steps be consistent.

Turkey withdrew the oil exploration vessel Yavuz from the Cyprus EEZ last week and previously withdrew the Oruc Reis from Greek waters but the vessel Barbaros is in Cyprian territory.

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