EU slams Turkey ‘provocations’ in East Med, postpones taking action

According to analysts, the postponement reflected the lack of consensus about taking actions against Turkey.
Friday 16/10/2020
German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves at the end of the second and last day of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, October 16. (AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves at the end of the second and last day of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, October 16. (AFP)

BRUSSELS - EU leaders on Friday condemned “unilateral actions and provocations” by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, where it is locked in a standoff over energy resources with Greece and Cyprus.

But aside from denunciatory rhetoric, there were no actions against Ankara announced. The EU will closely monitor Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean and decide on any possible sanctions at a summit in December.

According to analysts, the postponement reflected the lack of consensus about taking actions against Turkey.

European leaders discussed the dispute at a summit in Brussels, after Turkey sent a research ship back to contested waters in defiance of international calls to withdraw.

The European Union “deplores renewed unilateral and provocative actions by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, including recent exploratory activities,” the 27 leaders said in their summit communique.

They urged Turkey to reverse its recent activity and reiterated their “full solidarity” with EU members Greece and Cyprus.

French President Emmanuel Macron departs at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 16. (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron departs at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 16. (AFP)

“We agreed that the recent unilateral measures taken by Turkey, which are of course provocative, are now increasing tensions again instead of easing them,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

“I think this is very regrettable, but it is also not necessary. We should work on the positive aspects of our agenda.”

EU leaders had a lengthy discussion of their relations with Ankara at a summit just two weeks ago, but Athens and Nicosia put grievances over Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean back on the agenda.

After a similar row in August, Ankara has redeployed the research ship Oruc Reis to strategic waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Crete and Kastellorizo.

The United States and Germany, both NATO allies of Greece and Turkey, have labelled the gas exploration mission a “provocation” and urged Ankara to recall the ship.

But despite the leaders’ strong rhetoric in their statement, EU Council President Charles Michel said there would be no change to the strategy agreed at the last summit.

The bloc has warned Turkey that all options are on the table, including sanctions. Since it has no armed forces, military action is not an option.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has strongly supported Greece, even to the extent of holding joint war games in the Mediterranean as a show of strength, said Europe was ready to talk to Ankara.

But he warned “we will not concede anything to these provocations”.

Two weeks after their last summit where leaders discussed economic sanctions, the EU has so far failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus.