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December 8, 2020

EU weighs up sanctions against Turkey in Med gas dispute

 
December 8, 2020

BRUSSELS: European Union foreign ministers evaluated grounds on Monday for sanctions against Turkey over a Mediterranean gas dispute before the bloc’s leaders decide at a summit on Dec. 10-11 whether to make good on their threat to impose punitive measures.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his country would not “bow down to threats and blackmail” but repeated his call for negotiations over the conflicting claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said all EU states agreed on Monday that Turkey had made no positive shift away from its policy of exploring in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean, a view confirmed by EU diplomats.

“It was made clear that there should be a response to Turkey,” Dendias told reporters on leaving the meeting, saying Turkey had “continued its delinquent behaviour...That is what will be discussed at the Council meeting of leaders”.

Tensions flared in August when Turkey - a NATO ally and candidate for EU membership - sent a survey vessel to map out energy-drilling prospects in waters also claimed by Greece.Germany, current holder of the EU’s six-month presidency, holds the key to whether sanctions go ahead. It had hoped to mediate between Athens and Ankara, but was angered when Turkey resumed its gas exploration off Cyprus in October after a pause.

“There have been too many provocations, and tensions between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece have prevented any direct talks,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said before the start of the meeting.

EU leaders told Turkey in October to stop exploring in the contested eastern Mediterranean waters or face consequences.The Turkish vessel, Oruc Reis, returned to port again last week, helping to calm tensions.