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Scholz urges Turkey and Greece to talk

October 27, 2022

During his first official visit to Greece, the German chancellor offered to mediate a dispute over islands in the eastern Mediterranean. Olaf Scholz also said the EU has a lot of work to reach a deal to curb gas prices.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the left, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the left, in Athens, Greece
Scholz told Mitsotakis Germany would serve as a mediator between Greece and Turkey.Image: Aristidis Vafeiadakis/ZUMA Wire/IMAGO

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday urged Turkey and Greece to resolve their differences "through dialogue and on the basis of international law."

“It should not be the case that NATO partners question each other’s sovereignty,” Scholz said at a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently denounced Greece for "occupying" Aegean islands whose status was settled in treaties adopted after World War I. Erdogan even suggested he might order a military landing on the Greek islands.

Scholz says good neighborly relations between the two countries would be significant "for all of Europe and trans-Atlantic relations."

Mitsotakis said it was "truly a shame'' that Erdogan "can't see that he is walking into a dead end when he poisons his people with lies against Greece. Because our neighbors and all our allies know that the Greek islands do not threaten anyone.''

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens
Mitsotakis showed Scholz the Acropolis in Athens, Greece's most popular tourist attractionImage: Eurokinissi/ZUMA Wire/IMAGO

Turkey-Greece rift

Scholz offered for Germany to serve as a mediator in the dispute.

"Our common goal, our vision, should be to fully realize the economic potential of the eastern Mediterranean region — for the benefit of all countries," Scholz said. "If the countries involved would view it as useful, Germany could get involved," he added.

Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over a range of other issues including where their continental shelves start and end, energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, overflights in the Aegean Sea, and ethnically-split Cyprus.

"My wish is that, even with delay, our neighbors will choose the road of de-escalation, of legality, of peaceful coexistence without rhetorical outbursts but with constructive actions,'' Mitostakis said.

He did, however, add that Greece was planning to station six Marder infantry fighting vehicles delivered by Germany on its border with Turkey.

"Our forces assume that they will be most useful there," Mitsotakis said.

Germany delivered the vehicles to Greece a few days ago as part of a deal in which Athens sent Ukraine Soviet-designed infantry BMP-1 infantry combat vehicles.

Growing conflict

Scholz, Mitsotakis address European energy crisis 

Scholz also spoke about the energy crisis in Europe, saying EU energy ministers still have much work to do to find a solution to contain speculative spikes in gas prices.

"We want to sink the gas prices jointly, it's our shared view that it is not something abstract," Scholz said.

"There is still more work to do for energy ministers, especially when it comes to avoiding speculative price spikes," he added. 

European leaders last week reached an agreement on what they called a "roadmap" aimed at putting in place measures to shield consumers from rising energy prices

Several members, including Germany, had objected to immediate moves to cap prices recommended by France and others, including Greece.

EU energy ministers were expected to come up with a solution by the end of November.

"We don't want the issue to return to the heads of states and governments at an EU Council level. We want it to be solved at the ministers' level and it can be solved at the ministers' level," Mitsotakis said.

lo, los/wd (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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EU leaders discuss energy crisis