EU mistrust of Turkey stands in the way of better ties
BRUSSELS – Turkey’s foreign minister on Friday warned the EU off using sanctions as Brussels demanded “tangible outcomes” from a push to mend ties battered by tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Ankara’s top diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu wrapped up two days of talks with EU chiefs aimed at soothing relations after conciliatory moves from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Tensions between Brussels and Ankara reached new levels last year after Turkey repeatedly sent a ship to search for gas in disputed waters, infuriating the bloc and member states Greece and Cyprus.
EU leaders in December agreed to add more names to a sanctions black list over Turkish drilling in Cypriot waters and draw up options for tougher punishments if Ankara did not change course.
But since then the rhetoric on all sides has mellowed dramatically as Erdogan insisted he wanted to “turn a new page” with Brussels.
In an important move, Greece and Turkey agreed to restart long-stalled exploratory talks on their maritime dispute next week.
Cavusoglu repeated an invitation for EU leaders to visit Ankara in a meeting with European Council president Charles Michel and said he was working on a roadmap for a “positive agenda in our relations.”
But he also insisted that the EU should hold off trying to punish Turkey.
“No results can be achieved (with the) language of sanctions,” he wrote on Twitter.
European diplomats insisted Friday that work is still going on to finalise the sanctions ordered by the member states in December.
The EU remains wary of Erdogan’s overtures and insists Ankara must turn its warmer words into actions.
“Dialogue needs to produce tangible outcomes in the interest of both EU and Turkey,” Michel wrote on Twitter after the meeting.
An EU official said Michel told Cavusoglu that Ankara needed to continue to refrain “from activities that might fuel tensions”.
Brussels is hoping to see progress in the talks with Turkey and has dangled the carrot of talks on updating a customs union and visa-free travel to help convince Erdogan, the official said.
While France, Greece and Cyprus have pushed hardest for a tough line on Turkey, other EU states led by economic powerhouse Germany have been far keener for a more diplomatic approach.
Many are anxious to keep Ankara on side, as the EU still relies on it to prevent refugees from Syria heading into the bloc under a shaky 2016 deal.