Trump must prevent Turkey from 'further provocative actions' against Greece - Biden

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he supported NATO efforts to defuse tensions between Greece and Turkey, and that agreements to establish a military deconfliction mechanism and resume diplomatic talks were steps in the right direction, his campaign said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The Trump administration must press Turkey to refrain from any further provocative actions in the region against Greece, including threats of force, to create the space for diplomacy to succeed," Biden said in the same statement.

Tensions reached worrying heights in August when Turkey sent the Oruç Reis seismic research vessel into waters claimed by Greece to search for oil and natural gas. Turkey’s withdrawal of the Oruç Reis and another vessel, the Yavuz, from the waters to the southwest of Cyprus has given a chance for sides to discuss the matters. The European Union welcomed these steps and said it would help ease tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

On Monday, Turkish state news agency reported that NATO-sponsored talks between Turkey and Greece to resolve issues over the eastern Mediterranean had been delayed for technical reasons.  Both sides agreed to establish a military deconfliction mechanism and resume diplomatic talks under the auspices of NATO.

"Disagreements in the region should be resolved peacefully," Biden said in the statement, "and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected."

The Democratic candidate also expressed his support for the lifting of the arms embargo on Cyprus. Biden said, "I also applaud Congressional action to finally end the counterproductive embargo on nonlethal security assistance for Cyprus, which is a strategic partner for the United States."

In the statement, Biden did not touch the recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Turkey's role in the fight has been one of the most hotly debated parts of the conflict. On Monday, co-chairs of the Minks Group called on both sides to immediately agree on a ceasefire.

Biden, in his statement, also called on Erdogan "to reverse his recent decision to convert the Hagia Sophia to a mosque and to return this treasure to its former status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all, including the Orthodox faithful." 

The conversion of centuries old Hagia Sophia from museum to mosque in July has raised concerns for Istanbul's multi-layered history and cosmopolitan identity. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the opening of the Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship after a top court ruling.