Germany, EU caution Turkey against East Med ‘provocations’

A consensus on imposing sanctions against Ankara is likely during the next EU summit in December.
Friday 20/11/2020
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media in Berlin, Germany, on November 19, 2020 following a virtual EU summit. REUTERS
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media in Berlin, Germany, on November 19, 2020 following a virtual EU summit. (REUTERS)

BERLIN--Germany’s chief diplomat denounced Turkey’s “provocation” in the Eastern Mediterranean and said the European Union is likely to discuss imposing sanctions on Ankara during its summit next month.

Turkey has to cease provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean if it wants to avoid new discussions about European Union sanctions against Ankara at an EU summit in December, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.

“It is up to Turkey what decision will be taken at the EU summit in December,” Maas said ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts.

“If we see no positive signals coming from Turkey by December, only further provocations such as (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s visit to North Cyprus, then we are heading for a difficult debate,” Maas said.

The question of imposing sanctions against Turkey would then certainly come up again, he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that European Union leaders will discuss Turkey’s aggressive pursuit of natural gas exploration in contested waters in the Eastern Mediterranean at their next summit. She also expressed her disappointment at Turkish behaviour.

“Things haven’t developed the way we would have wished,” she told journalists following a meeting with EU leaders late on Thursday.

Another warning came from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said Ankara must understand that its behaviour is “widening its separation” from the 27-nation bloc.

“We consider the recent actions and statements by Turkey related to Cyprus contrary to the United Nations resolutions and further igniting tensions,” Borrell told a news conference Thursday.

” In order to return to a positive agenda, as we wish, will require a fundamental change of attitude on the Turkish side.”

He was referring to comments by Erdogan, who called for an equal “two-state” solution in Cyprus during a visit earlier this week to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

Erdogan also said Turkey and Northern Cyprus would no longer tolerate what he called “diplomacy games” in an international dispute over rights to offshore resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“Time is running, and we are approaching a watershed moment in our relationship with Turkey,” Borrell said.

The EU has failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus, but has so far held off on imposing sanctions that Athens and Nicosia are seeking.

A decision on the issue is expected to be made at the EU summit. Germany, which maintains important economic ties with Turkey, has so far not favoured sanctions.

But its new warnings to Ankara might be an indication that it is leaning towards endorsing the viewpoint of other European nations, such as France, which advocate for imposing sanctions on Turkey.

A consensus on imposing such sanctions could emerge during the next EU summit in December, analysts say.