As Turkey's Oruc Reis research vessel was scheduled to end its activities on Saturday in areas within the Greek continental shelf, Athens is determined not to accept any proposal from Ankara for exploratory contacts before the December 10-11 European Council, which will discuss the possibility of imposing tough sanctions on Turkey over its recent stance.
Athens' position stems from the belief that any such offer by Ankara would be a "sham," a sentiment shared by most Europeans. In fact, the possibility of a meaningful dialogue will not be able to start even in the days following the European Council, as Athens wants a specific signal from Ankara. This would entail Ankara implementing a moratorium on exploratory activities so that talks between the two countries could start in an atmosphere of de-escalation.
The issue of sanctions is a thorny one. France wants harsh sanctions on Turkey's economy, which could lead to the suspension of the EU customs union with Turkey. The most ardent opponent of such a prospect is Spain, as the country's banks and insurance funds are heavily exposed to the Turkish economy. The stance of Germany is seen as pivotal. Berlin has always remained in favor of dialogue. However, given Turkey's provocative behavior, its expectations are limited.
Athens is also wary Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could exploit the period running up to the swearing in of US President-elect Joe Biden, given the threats in the Turkish media that troops could board Greek-flagged merchant ships as "retaliation" for the recent search by German marines of a Turkish cargo ship, which Ankara has blamed on Greece.