NEWS

EU leaders strive to break impasse at summit

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Athens was waiting on Thursday night for a new draft of conclusions following a meeting between the leaders of Greece, Cyprus, France and Germany, with the participation of the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, on the sidelines of the European leaders summit in Brussels.

The aim of the meeting was to find a compromise for the formulation of the conclusions in relation to Turkey, as the initial draft was deemed unacceptable by Greece and Cyprus.

According to sources, Athens insisted that the reference to a future dialogue with Ankara should be balanced with a mention of sanctions in case Ankara’s de-escalation earlier in the month proves to be a maneuver in order to avoid penalties.

Chancellor Angela Merkel did not want any reference to sanctions, citing, among other things, the agreement announced earlier in the day on a deconfliction mechanism between Athens and Ankara under the auspices of NATO. “Diplomacy has a key role to play in de-escalating the region,” she said.

For his part, French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that the EU must find a way to re-engage in a demanding dialogue with Turkey. But he stressed that solidarity with Greece and Cyprus is “non-negotiable.” “When another member-state is attacked, it is threatened, when its sovereign rights are not respected, it is the duty of the Europeans to show solidarity,” he said.

The initial draft expressed the EU’s solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and welcomed confidence-building measures as well as the agreement on the resumption of exploratory contacts between Greece and Turkey. It also called on Ankara to stop “illegal” exploration and drilling in “disputed waters.”

On the condition of “long-term” de-escalation in the region, it said, a new positive agenda could be launched with Turkey, focusing on modernizing the customs union, resuming high-level political dialogue and more frequent contacts at the civil society level. The draft did not include any reference to sanctions.

Before the summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that Greece and Turkey have set up a mechanism to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean. Stoltenberg said that a telephone hotline would be set up between the two countries “to facilitate deconfliction at sea or in the air.”