Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is heading to Brussels on Wednesday for a European Council meeting on Thursday where he will face the difficult balancing act of backing further funding for Turkey to curb the flow of refugees toward Europe while also supporting sanctions against Ankara for its illegal drilling off Cyprus and its incursion in northern Syria.
Along with Brexit, Turkey’s military operation in Syria and its likely triggering of a new refugee crisis are expected to dominate talks at the summit, while Turkey’s illegal prospecting for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean is sure to be broached by Greek and Cypriot officials following a decision by European foreign ministers to prepare sanctions against those involved in illegal operations off Cyprus.
European Union member-states appear to be divided on how to respond to Turkey’s various transgressions amid fears of further upheaval.
According to sources, Berlin is in favor of giving further funding to Turkey to boost its response to the refugee crisis, but other member-states, including France, oppose the idea.
In view of this differentiation in stances, it is possible that Greece will not rush to declare a rigid position.
Cyprus has already called for the imposition of stricter sanctions against Turkey for its illegal activities in its sovereign waters.
During an interview on ANT1 TV on Monday night, Mitsotakis expressed his conviction that “Europe will intervene dynamically during the summit to collectively support Cyprus.” He added, “This means escalating the sanctions that have already been imposed.”
In comments to reporters on Tuesday, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas indicated that any additional funding to Ankara, for the refugee crisis, should be linked to a shift in Turkey’s behavior.
“Any funding to Turkey, which anyone with humanitarian feelings would not oppose, must be combined with clear actions by Turkey that would stop its provocative behavior,” he said. “This is what we and other
European capitals are working toward,” he added.
It is expected that any funding for Turkey’s response to the refugee crisis would be disbursed to nongovernmental organizations, an approach backed by European Council President Donald Tusk.
In a speech on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared resolutely committed to the incursion in Syria, which he said was as “vital” to Turkey as its military invasion of Cyprus in 1974.