Berlin welcomes renewed Greece-Turkey crisis talks

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Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday welcomed the resumption of talks between Greece and Turkey over an explosive standoff about eastern Mediterranean borders and energy rights after a meeting with her Turkish counterpart in Berlin, Agence-France Presse reported.

“The important thing is that talks have opened up again,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said after the meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

“Further escalation in the Mediterranean must be avoided,” she said, adding that she hoped “all parties will see this as an opportunity for dialogue.”

Germany sees itself playing a “mediating role” in the dispute, she said after phone calls with her Greek and Cypriot counterparts ahead of the meeting.

Greece and Turkey bowed to EU pressure in late January and engaged in their first direct talks in nearly five years in a long-running dispute over eastern Mediterranean borders and energy rights.

The meeting produced no breakthrough except for an agreement for the talks to continue in Athens at an undisclosed date.

Athens and Ankara held 60 rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016 without resolving the dispute that has lingered for much of the past century and nearly led to war in 1996.

Hostilities flared anew last year when Ankara sent a research ship accompanied by a navy flotilla into waters near the Turkish coast that Greece claims, with EU support.

Turkey is furious that Greece is using its web of islands to lay claim to huge swathes of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

Both sides cite a range of decades-old treaties and international agreements to support their conflicting claims.

The İstanbul meeting came during a sudden spurt in diplomatic contacts aimed at thawing an ever deeper chill in relations that have frozen EU accession talks Turkey began in 2005.

Kramp-Karrenbauer insisted on Tuesday that Turkey was and remained “an important NATO partner” while stressing that she had addressed “difficult issues” in the Berlin meeting.

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