The US Secretary of State urges Greece and Turkey to settle the dispute over the eastern Mediterranean within a peaceful solution in accordance with international law

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday held talks in Greece aimed at encouraging “reducing tension” in the eastern Mediterranean and launching a dialogue between Athens and Ankara.

Pompeo held talks with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Thessaloniki, in northern Greece.

A joint statement by Pompeo and Dendias said that the disagreement of the two competing parties over potentially resource-rich spaces under the Mediterranean should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with international law”.

The tension is at its most intense in weeks between Athens and Ankara, which are fighting over regions in the eastern Mediterranean believed to be rich in gas and oil. 

Last week, the two countries, members of NATO, and the United States announced the resumption of bilateral negotiations soon.

Before this tour, a senior US official stressed the need to “stop the escalation in the eastern Mediterranean,” saying to reporters that Pompeo “expressed his deep concern”.

The official stressed the need to “reduce the risk of accidents” and “refrain from taking any unilateral action that fuels tension,” calling on Greece and Turkey “to reach an agreement”.

He explained that Washington “encourages all countries to settle issues related to maritime border demarcation peacefully and in accordance with international law”.

He added that the US Secretary of State also wants to “keep pace with the recent positive developments and the prospects for resuming dialogue”.

On Friday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his address to the UN General Assembly, to “give a chance” to diplomacy at a time when the two countries seem to have chosen calm.

The senior US official emphasized that Washington “encourages all countries to resolve maritime border delineation issues peacefully and in accordance with international law”.

About two weeks ago, Pompeo visited Cyprus, where he urged Turkey to stop the activities that cause tension in the eastern Mediterranean, calling on all parties to pursue diplomatic means.

Pompeo will also travel Tuesday to Crete to meet Mitsotakis and visit the NATO naval base in Souda Bay.

The Greek Prime Minister will receive the US Secretary of State at his family home, and will seek to strengthen military cooperation with the United States.

Last October, the US Secretary of State signed a defense agreement allowing US forces to use Greek military installations more widely.

The agreement gives the United States, in particular, priority in using the Alexandropolis port in the north of the country, which is a transit gateway to the Balkans and the Black Sea and has strategic importance for the US Navy and NATO.

And information was received from the US State Department indicating that the Thessaloniki visit is a message addressed to the Balkans regarding Washington’s desire to invest in the region.

Pompeo will sign a bilateral science and energy deal and participate in a meeting of energy sector company heads.

Then Pompeo will visit Rome on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with Italian officials and discuss efforts by the Donald Trump administration to persuade European allies not to accept the Chinese Huawei group to develop the fifth generation network (5G).

In the atmosphere of the trade war between China and the United States, the US president waved the security threat, accusing Huawei of being a spy tool for Beijing.

Pompeo will participate in the Vatican in a meeting on freedom of belief, his priority in the field of human rights, organized by the US embassy to the Holy See.

Here, too, he will warn of China’s “violence” against its minorities, including Muslims.

The tour ends Friday in Dubrovnik, Croatia.