EU: Greece-Turkey crisis talks might include other nations

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaks at the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium September 15, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 September 2020

EU: Greece-Turkey crisis talks might include other nations

  • EU's top foreign affairs official calls talks a "watershed moment" for bloc's future relationship with Turkey
  • Tensions between longtime rivals Greece and Turkey over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean are close to boiling point

ATHENS: 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, a top European Union official said Tuesday.

Greece and Turkey have been involved in a standoff at sea for weeks over maritime boundaries between Turkey’s coast, the ethnically divided island nation of Cyprus and several Greek islands.

A Turkish research ship that has been operating in the area over which Greece claims exclusive rights has 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 multiple military exercises.
The European Union’s top foreign affairs official, Josep Borrell, said the bloc’s relations with Turkey were at a “watershed moment in history. And the ball will go one side or the other, depending what is going to happen in the next days.
“Tension has been continuing to rise over the summer. I have spent the last few months, including this summer, trying to facilitate the de-escalation efforts,” Borrell said in Brussels. “But the least I can say is that more efforts are needed — the softest way of saying that the situation has not been improving.”
However, he noted that the return of the research vessel to port was a step in the right direction.”
Domestically, Borrell said, Turkey “is seriously backsliding away from European Union values and reforms.” Specifically, he said, the country had not delivered on promises to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
“We perceive a worrying backsliding in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms that continues to raise our concerns,” he said.


Navy chief who supervised bin Laden mission says he voted for Biden

Updated 21 October 2020

Navy chief who supervised bin Laden mission says he voted for Biden

  • He declared his support for many of the key issues Biden is running on
  • More than 500 retired US military leaders have endorsed Biden in recent months

NEW YORK: The former US Navy Seal who oversaw the 2011 operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden has revealed that he voted for Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the presidential election.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, retired Adm. William McRaven was scathing about the record of the Trump administration and its “transactional approach to global issues.”
Without referring to the president by name, he said America’s global influence is diminishing as other countries see the most powerful nation in the world “tear up our treaties, leave our allies on the battlefield and cozy up to despots and dictators. (They) have seen an ineptness and a disdain for civility that is beyond anything in their memory.”
He also rejected Trump’s assertion that the US is now held in high regard as a result of his leadership. McRaven, who was commander of US Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, said that the world no longer trusts America to “stand up to tyranny, lift up the downtrodden, free the oppressed, and fight for the righteous.”
He stressed his traditional conservative values, including opposition to abortion and a tough stance on defense matters. But he also declared his support for many of the key issues Biden is running on, including support for racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement, a fair path to citizenship for immigrants, a return to America’s founding ideals of diversity and inclusion, and the need to take action on climate change.
More than 500 retired US military leaders have endorsed Biden in recent months, including four former chairmen of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. However, McRaven has been particularly forceful in his criticism since the president took office, describing Trump as unfit for the office of commander-in-chief. In numerous interviews and op-eds he has accused him of eroding American values and undermining US democratic institutions.
He described Trump’s attacks on the media as “the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” And in an op-ed for the Washington Post in February, he said he fears for the future of his country if Trump remains in power.
“As Americans, we should be frightened,” he wrote. “(When) good men and women can’t speak the truth, (when) integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”
In another scathing op-ed, published by the New York Times in October 2019, McRaven said the American republic is “under attack” from the man in the Oval Office.
Trump previously dismissed the criticism, claiming in 2018 that McRaven had been a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, and questioning why bin Laden was not killed sooner.
In response, McRaven said: “I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else.”
On one occasion when asked to comment on the criticism from the retired admiral, Trump said he did not know who he was.
In his latest op-ed — titled “Biden will make America lead again” — McRaven restated the need for an American leadership driven by “conviction and a sense of honor and humility.”
He concludes with a warning that echoes one given by former President George H.W. Bush in the 1998 book “A World Transformed:” “If we remain indifferent to our role in the world, if we retreat from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for our neglect and shortsightedness.”