Turkey-Greece East Med talks may include third countries - top EU official

The EU may involve third countries in talks aimed at diffusing tensions between Turkey and Greece over hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, a top EU official said Tuesday.

The bloc is discussing the idea of a multilateral conference due to likely need to bring the different countries to the table in order to deal with the different issues in the conflict, Greek newspaper Kathimerini quoted European Council President Charles Michel as saying during a visit to Athens.

Greece and Turkey have long disagreed on overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the region, with both sides holding conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in waters. 

The latest bout of tensions began last month, when Turkey dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruç Reis to an area of sea claimed by both sides, in a move that has enraged Greece, prompting the country to send naval and air units to shadow the Oruç Reis and conducting military exercises with Cyprus, France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates in the area. The military building in the region is creating a standoff at risk of escalating into a direct confrontation.

Michel said he was hopeful that a commitment for talks would be made soon and that a negotiating process involving several countries could help facilitate an agreement over the contested waters, Kathimerini reported.