Greece and Turkey set up NATO-mediated hotline to avoid conflict in Eastern Mediterranean

3 October 2020

Greece and Turkey have set up a “bilateral military de-confliction mechanism” to avoid accidental military clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean, NATO said in a statement on 1 October. This NATO-mediated initiative began in early September and is part of wider efforts to defuse a dispute over energy resources in the region.

Germany is leading a diplomatic effort for broader dialogue and EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss how to avoid any escalation over the competition for oil and gas resources.

“De-confliction”, in military language, can mean setting up communications links between rival militaries in the same theatre, as the United States has done with Russia in Syria. In the 1990’s, NATO helped establish a similar mechanism in the Mediterranean region, which was effective in helping to reduce tensions and provide the space for broader diplomatic talks.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the agreement between Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO, included a hotline to avoid accidents in the sea and air. “I welcome the establishment of a military de-confliction mechanism, achieved through the constructive engagement of Greece and Turkey,” he said. “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”.

The talks at NATO headquarters were in part prompted by a light collision between Turkish and Greek frigates and increased war games by their navies in the Mediterranean.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said Turkey and Greece reached a "common understanding on general principles" as a result of the talks. It said the next meeting to discuss technical details for coordination.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Greece on 29 September and called the country a “pillar for stability and prosperity” in the region and expressed “[deep] concern” about Turkish aggression, according to the Washington Post.

Stoltenberg will visit senior government figures in Turkey and Greece next week, as the alliance continues to attempt to defuse a dangerous stand-off between the two member states.