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NATO has announced the framework of a deconfliction agreement between Greece and Turkey. The two neighbors are trying to avoid a military conflict over the exploration of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.
NATO allies Greece and Turkey agreed to set up a mechanism to avoid accidental conflicts in the Mediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.
Tensions between the European neighbors ran high for several weeks in the eastern Mediterranean when Turkey began surveying for potential energy reserves in an area Greece said is part of its continental shelf. Ankara said is operating in its own exclusive economic zone.
NATO confirmed that the two countries have agreed to "a bilateral military deconfliction mechanism" that would prevent a military confrontation over the dispute. The agreement includes establishing a hotline for use between senior officials should a confrontation arise.
"I welcome the establishment of a military deconfliction mechanism, achieved through the constructive engagement of Greece and Turkey, both valued NATO allies," Stoltenberg said as part of a NATO statement.
"This safety mechanism can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts to address the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further."
Talks over the de-confliction measures got off to a rough start, with Greece even refusing to acknowledge the negotiations were taking place.
Germany has led a diplomatic push for broader dialogue, and EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss how to avoid escalation over explorations of hydrocarbons.
Arriving in Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said recent "provocation" by Ankara must stop. Cyprus is also pushing to broaden sanctions over Turkish drilling for gas in its waters.
The move comes despite Turkey still being an official candidate for entry to the European Union.
dv/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)