European Council meeting gets under way with Turkey high on agenda

European Council meeting gets under way with Turkey high on agenda

Ahead of the two-day extraordinary European Council meeting that starts on Thursday in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested on Wednesday that Greece and Turkey had come close to war during their protracted summer standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“It’s hard to imagine how small the distance between military conflict and peaceful settlement can get in some cases,” Merkel told a session of the German lower house of parliament.

“Tensions with Greece and the Greek-Cypriot side are high, yet Turkey is a NATO partner. And it shows remarkable efforts in hosting refugees,” Merkel told the Bundestag.

“We should balance our relations carefully and focus on cooperation,” she said, describing relations with Turkey as “multidimensional.”

For his part, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a message to Turkey on Wednesday saying that the “successful” visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Greece would strengthen the country’s position at the EU Council meeting.

“This is where Turkey’s behavior will be thoroughly examined and I hope that the message to Ankara will be perfectly clear: Unilateral actions cause side effects; aggressive moves generate a response in kind,” he said. 

Diplomatic sources said the council's conclusions are expected to include an indirect reference to possible sanctions on Ankara over its behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean and, possibly, a separate paragraph with strong language for Ankara over its continued violations of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

The reasoning is that this will persuade Nicosia not to block the EU’s intention to impose sanctions on Belarusian officials at the next Council in less than two weeks.

A high-ranking European official confirmed on Wednesday that EC President Charles Michel’s goal is to break the stalemate over Belarus during the summit.

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