NATO sets up talks in search for solution to Turkey-Greece conflict

NATO sets up talks in search for solution to Turkey-Greece conflict
NATO has taken the initiative to reconcile Turkey and Greece over their spat in the Eastern Mediterranean. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 September 2020

NATO sets up talks in search for solution to Turkey-Greece conflict

NATO sets up talks in search for solution to Turkey-Greece conflict
  • Greece denied it had agreed to hold NATO-brokered talks with Turkey
  • It demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf as a pre-condition to calm the tension

ANKARA: NATO has taken the initiative to reconcile Turkey and Greece over their spat in the Eastern Mediterranean, but tensions are still running high and experts are skeptical about any immediate outcome.
It announced that Turkey and Greece have agreed to hold “technical talks” to calm military tensions in the region over disputed gas drilling activities.
Greece denied it had agreed to hold NATO-brokered talks with Turkey and demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf as a pre-condition to calm the tension. Ankara, however, backs the idea and expects that talks would focus on preventing accidental clashes.
The differences over exclusive maritime borders and energy exploration rights between the two regional rivals remain as sharp as ever, and commentators said they were unlikely to be resolved immediately through NATO-brokered talks.
“The current crisis between Turkey and Greece has similarities to the 1974, 1987 and 1996 crises between the countries and hence, while there is clearly a chance for escalation, these two countries also have a record of limiting the level of violence between them,” Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, told Arab News.
According to Lindenstrauss, the matter of delimitation of exclusive economic zones (EEZ) will be tackled at some point through negotiations, but the question is whether the sides are ready yet for serious talks.
Athens delivered a letter on Turkey’s activities in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, requesting him to submit it to the Security Council.
“It seems that the Greek side is still holding to its past positions and that Turkey is using this crisis for a larger agenda than just the legal dispute. Hence, even if the sides will move to negotiations, I would not expect them to achieve more than partial delimitation, if anything,” Lindenstrauss said.
Germany is taking steps to initiate more dialogue between Greece and Turkey, after Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.
Paul Antonopoulos, an expert on Turkish-Greek relations, agreed that technical talks between Greece and Turkey will not produce any results due to the disagreements over pre-conditions.
“As Turkey not only refuses to send its ships back to port, but has actually increased war and invasion rhetoric against Greece, discussions will not occur under these conditions,” he said.
Antonopoulos thinks that Turkey’s recent moves in the East Mediterranean, as well as in Syria, Iraq and Libya, have been motivated by a maximalist push for neo-Ottomanism.
“It is unsurprising that Turkey’s military interventions have all been in countries that are not only former Ottoman territories, but are energy-rich,” he said. “When we look at Turkey’s military escalations wanting to control energy deposits and its flows to support the country’s growing population and economic progress, dialogue to resolve issues with Greece will not be fruitful.”
Madalina Sisu Vicari, an independent expert on energy geopolitics, thinks that the ideal solution for all the disputes related to the Aegean and East Mediterranean, would be if Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus could settle their maritime issues through bilateral and trilateral negotiations, eventually assisted by a third party.
“However, though in flux, the current relations between the three countries, in conjunction with the late power competitor dynamics triggered by France’s goals and actions in East Mediterranean, have dramatically reduced the likelihood of such a solution,” she said.
Another option for Vicari would be to bring the matters to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague or to international arbitration.
“But the latter, in principle, has the disadvantage of being less acceptable in case of an unfavorable verdict, and Ankara is not keen on the former option. So a more feasible option would be for the parties to ask the ICJ to rule on the principles that must be applied for the resolution of the disputes, and leave the final settlement to themselves,” she said.
Vicari noted that the delimitation of the continental shelf in the North Sea, followed by the agreements between Germany and the Netherlands, and between Denmark and Germany, occurred following such an ICJ ruling.


Lebanon approves law to import vaccines as coronavirus hits new record

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session, as Lebanon's parliament approved a law that paves the way for the government to ink deals for coronavirus vaccinations, at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. (Reuters)
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session, as Lebanon's parliament approved a law that paves the way for the government to ink deals for coronavirus vaccinations, at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 13 min 1 sec ago

Lebanon approves law to import vaccines as coronavirus hits new record

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session, as Lebanon's parliament approved a law that paves the way for the government to ink deals for coronavirus vaccinations, at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. (Reuters)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament approved a draft law allowing imports of coronavirus vaccines as the tiny nation hit a new record in case numbers Friday and more hospitals reported they were at full capacity.
The new daily toll of 6,154 cases and 44 deaths came on the second day of a nationwide 11-day curfew that the government and doctors hope will reign in the dramatic surge of the virus.
Lebanon, a country of about 6 million people, has witnessed a sharp increase of cases in recent weeks, after some 80,000 expatriates flew in to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
During the holiday season, restrictions were eased to encourage spending by expatriates amid a suffocating economic and financial crisis, the worst in Lebanon’s modern history.
On Friday, the American University Medical Center, one of Lebanon’s largest and most prestigious hospitals, said in a statement that its health care workers were overwhelmed. The hospital’s ICUs and regular coronavirus units have reached full capacity and so did the emergency room, it said.
“We are unable to find beds for even the most critical patients,” the hospital said, urging people in Lebanon to help by taking extreme precautionary measures to “overcome the catastrophe we are facing.”
Mazen El-Sayed, an associated professor in the department of emergency medicine, described the situation as “tragic,” anticipating that the next two weeks would be even more dire.
In southern Lebanon, the Ragheb Harb Hospital also said that its COVID-19 units were now. “We are working beyond our capacity. The situation is very dangerous,” the hospital said in a statement.
The curfew, which began Thursday, is the strictest measure Lebanon has taken since the start of the pandemic. But many have expressed concern the measures have come too late — many hospitals have already reached maximum capacity for coronavirus patients, some have run out of beds, oxygen tanks and ventilators while others have halted elective surgeries.
Lebanon was able to contain the virus in its early stages but the numbers started climbing after measures were eased in early July and following the massive deadly blast at Beirut’s port in August.
Following bureaucratic delays, the country now is putting hopes on vaccines that are expected to start arriving next month.
Parliament’s approval opens the way for imports of vaccines from around the world, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan, who is hospitalized with the coronavirus, had said that once the draft law is approved, the first deliveries of vaccines should start arriving in February.
Lebanon has reserved 2.7 million doses of vaccines from multiple international companies and 2.1 million to be provided by Pfizer, Diab’s office says.
Lebanon has registered nearly 243,000 coronavirus cases and some 1,825 confirmed deaths.