With NATO members Greece and Turkey locked in a prolonged and tense standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean, European Union High Representative Josep Borrell on Friday presented, on the second day of the informal Foreign Affairs Council in Berlin, a list of possible staggered sanctions to be imposed on Ankara if it persists with its aggression in the region.
The deadline that was set is September 24, the start date of the extraordinary EU Summit on relations with Turkey.
More specifically, Borrell said that the EU was prepared to sanction Turkish vessels, blocking their access to EU ports and a ban on their access to European infrastructure, capital and technology.
What’s more, sanctions could also be imposed directly on the Turkish economy.
“We can go to measures related to sectoral activities... where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy,” Borrell told a news conference in Berlin. He also urged Ankara to “stop unilateral actions,” saying that de-escalation was a “key condition” for dialogue.
However, both he and his host, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, insisted that the EU first wanted to give dialogue a chance.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that he had spoken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed the creation of a mechanism to de-escalate tension within the alliance. Erdogan insisted that Turkey wants a mutually beneficial deal for all countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Tension between the two NATO allies revolves around prospecting rights for hydrocarbons, which reached fever pitch after Turkey dispatched its Oruc Reis vessel to conduct surveys in an area within the Greek continental shelf.
Turkey’s move followed the deal between Athens and Cairo demarcating their exclusive economic zones, which essentially canceled out a maritime border deal that Ankara signed late last year with the Tripoli-based government in Libya, which Greece says is null and void as it violates Greek sovereignty.
In a statement after the summit, the spokesman of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Hami Aksoy, bemoaned the EU’s “unconditional support” for Greece which “further escalates the tension.”
“It is not up to the EU to criticize Turkey’s hydrocarbon activities within its own continental shelf and to call for their termination. Because, as confirmed by the European Court of Justice, the EU has no jurisdiction on this matter. This call is contrary to the EU’s own acquis and international law,” the statement read.
“We invite the EU and EU member-states not to support Greece’s maximalist claims in contravention of international law, under a pretext of union solidarity,” it added.
For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias hailed the EU’s “absolutely supportive” attitude toward Greece and Cyprus in the face of Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“I think the Greek side got what it could get: an agreement on sanctions, if Turkey does not de-escalate and does not return to the dialogue table,” Dendias said.