European Union foreign ministers have agreed to a “wait-and-see” approach towards Turkey, with some member-states appearing more skeptical of Ankara’s recent overtures.
According to diplomatic sources, Monday’s meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels was briefed by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the content of their recent talks with Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu, with both noting Ankara’s apparent desire to turn over a new leaf with Brussels.
The EU’s overall stance towards Ankara’s recent statements and actions appears to be positive, the same sources said, though foreign ministers went on to individually stress that Turkey needs to follow through with its overtures towards a de-escalation of tension in the East Mediterranean and the Aegean.
Greece, for its part, insisted that significant progress needs to be made on issues that are of particular interest to Athens, such Turkey’s violations of the Law of the Sea and its intimations of casus belli.
Ankara’s recent change of stance is being attributed to the threat of sanctions from the European Union, the deterioration of the Turkish economy and the election of Joe Biden as president of the United States.
In comments ahead of the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, in fact, Borrell said that the EU should examine a “new era” in bilateral ties with Ankara, in “close cooperation” with the new American administration.
Speaking to the press later, Borrell confirmed that the EU will continue pursuing a “positive agenda” with Turkey but will also continue working on the technical aspects of new sanctions over Turkey’s illegal hydrocarbon surveys in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone. “The list is not ready, but it has not been put aside,” he said.
“I am happy to say that today the irritants that poisoned life during the last summer and autumn have stopped… and we have agreed [with Cavusoglu] that both parts will keep this momentum and use it positively in order to try reach agreements,” Borrell added. He also expressed hope that talks on Cyprus’ reunification can restart by the end of February.
Maas, for his part, reiterated Berlin’s skepticism of sanctions against Turkey, arguing that Ankara has take a positive step with the relaunch of exploratory contacts with Athens that should not be “obstructed” by the threat of sanctions.