UPDATE 1-Greece, Turkey agree to talks over Eastern Mediterranean, NATO says

BRUSSELS/ ISTANBUL, Sept 3- Greece and Turkey have agreed to talks to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, part of efforts to defuse the worsening dispute over energy resources in the region. North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies Turkey and Greece vehemently disagree over…

By Robin Emmott and Daren Butler

BRUSSELS/ISTANBUL, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Greece and Turkey haveagreed to talks to avoid accidental clashes in the EasternMediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said onThursday, part of efforts to defuse the worsening dispute overenergy resources in the region.

Germany is also leading a diplomatic push for broaderdialogue and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to TurkishPresident Tayyip Erdogan by video conference.

“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders,the two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATOto establish mechanisms for military deconfliction to reduce therisk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean,”Stoltenberg said in a statement.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies Turkey andGreece vehemently disagree over claims to natural gas reservesin the eastern Mediterranean and the extent of their continentalshelves.

They have drawn the European Union and nearby countries intothe dispute, which earlier this month flared into a lightcollision between Turkish and Greek frigates.

Greece has been joined by NATO allies France and Italy inits military drills in the same area of the Mediterranean, whileTurkey has also carried out naval exercises.

“Deconfliction” in military parlance can mean setting upcommunications links between rival militaries in the sametheatre, as the United States has done with Russia in Syria, butStoltenberg did not go into details.

Erdogan and Merkel discussed the dispute and the Turkishpresident said Greece, Cyprus and the countries which supportedthem were “taking steps which heightened deadlock and tensions”.

“Our president said it was unacceptable for some countriesto support the selfish and unjust attitude of Greece,” astatement from Erdogan’s office said, adding that he wasgrateful for Merkel’s efforts to contribute towards a solution.

Greece, with support from the European Union, in turnaccuses Turkey of aggressive actions and infringing on itsmaritime borders.

“We have taken note of the NATO secretary general’s will towork to set up de-escalation mechanisms … However, only theimmediate removal of all Turkish vessels from the Greekcontinental shelf would constitute a de-escalation,” a Greekdiplomat said.(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing byCatherine Evans and Tom Brown)

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