EU leaders agreed to impose sanctions on an unknown number of Turkish officials and entities involved in drilling for gas in waters claimed by Cyprus, but postponed more important decisions, such as trade tariffs or an arms embargo, until they have consulted with the next administration Biden.
The decision taken by the EU council after hours of heated debate disappointed hardliners like France, Cyprus and Greece, who had lobbied for more urgent and substantive measures to express the EU’s disapproval of Turkish foreign policy.
However, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied: “We reject the partial and illegal attitude that had to be inserted in the conclusions of the EU summit on December 10 after the pressure of solidarity and the veto.”
The Foreign Ministry added that the decisions made at the EU leaders’ summit were “illegal” and “once again ignored the Cyriot Turks, who are co-owners of the island of Cyprus.”
The names of those facing sanctions will be published in the coming weeks by the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell. It also agreed to prepare proposals on a broader approach for Turkey in March, giving the EU time to consult Joe Biden’s national security team.
The US president-elect has called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an autocrat, but Ankara has tried to avoid antagonizing the incoming administration.
“It is very clear what is at stake here: the credibility of the European Union,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said before the summit. The Greek diplomats did little to hide their disappointment.
France and Greece argued that the EU had already agreed in October that it would impose sanctions if the Ankara regime did not stop its “provocations” and “aggressive rhetoric.”
Turkey has been using the Oruç Reis research vessel in Greek waters and then returned it to Turkish ports when the diplomatic warmth of Germany required it.
Germany insisted on keeping the door open for Turkish cooperation and ensured that the EU declaration offered a helping hand if Turkey reciprocated, and provided a sustained de-escalation, including a willingness to resolve disputes through dialogue and in accordance. with international law.
It also suggests a multilateral conference on the future of the eastern Mediterranean, something Turkey would like because it feels unfairly excluded from some regional energy forums.
Turkey is mired in various disputes with the EU, including claims for drilling rights in Cyprus and a broader disagreement over the way maritime borders are drawn across seas.
France and Turkey are also at odds in Libya, where Erdogan has sent arms and troops to help the Tripoli government to the west, an administration seen by some in Paris as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey’s leadership role in NATO is also causing concern in some quarters. The invasion of northeast Syria and Russia’s acquisition of S-400 missiles make France uncomfortable, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has described Turkey as an important ally.
Additional reporting by Bethan McKernan
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