EU: Greece-Turkey crisis talks might include other nations

A top European Union official said Tuesday that third countries might be invited to talks aimed at easing a dispute between Greece and Turkey over energy rights that has brought warships to the eastern Mediterranean. Greece and Turkey have been involved in a standoff at sea for weeks over maritime boundaries in an area between Turkey’s coast, the ethnically divided island nation of Cyprus and several Greek islands that Greece claims as its jurisdiction. A Turkish research ship that has been operating in the area to Greece’s consternation returned to port for maintenance, giving EU diplomats a window to launch negotiations between Greece and Turkey. EU member countries are also mulling sanctions against Turkey over its exploration. European Council President Charles Michel said while visiting Athens that he was hopeful a commitment for talks would be made soon and that a negotiating process involving several countries could help facilitate an agreement. “We are discussing the idea of a multilateral conference because, beyond bilateral dialogue, there is probably the need to bring the different countries to the table in order to deal with the different issues,” Michel said. He did not elaborate. Germany, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency and launched an effort in July to broker direct Greek-Turkish negotiations, is a likely candidate to participate, if the discussions are broadened. NATO has also organized contacts between Greek and Turkish military officials in hopes of preventing the use of force in the disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean. The two countries have sent warships as part of an armed forces buildup that has included both conducting multiple military exercises.