European Parliament threatens Turkey with sanctions

The Lower House warned yesterday that Erdogan's unwavering stance was damaging the relationship with the European Union
Josep Borrel

AP/FRANCOIS LENOIR  -   The head of the European Union's foreign policy, Josep Borrell, speaks at a press conference following a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers on Monday 13 July 2020

Turkey and the European Union have entered into an escalation of tensions that culminated this week with the insults between Presidents Erdogan and Macron. This is not the first time these leaders have clashed and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean is of great concern to the European Parliament.

The Lower House has warned of the deterioration in relations between the European Union and Turkey, particularly the human rights situation in that country and its "exploration and drilling" in the eastern Mediterranean, which has led to conflict with Greece and Cyprus.

In a resolution (backed by 601 votes in favour, 57 against and 36 abstentions) Parliament condemned Turkey's actions to search for natural gas in these waters and expressed its "total solidarity" with Greece and Cyprus, the two Member States affected by these activities.

MEPs also expressed "serious concerns about the current state of EU-Turkey relations, especially about the serious human rights situation in Turkey and the erosion of democracy and the rule of law".

It also underlined the negative impact of Turkey's foreign policy initiatives in its region and warned that "illegal exploration and drilling activities are aggravating the deterioration of EU-Turkey relations".

The crisis that confronts Turkey with Cyprus and Greece has its origin in the delimitation of exclusive maritime zones and the search for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The European Union is seriously considering sanctioning Turkey

The Parliament urged Turkey, "as a candidate for EU membership, to respect the law of the sea and the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus over their territorial waters, as well as their rights in their maritime areas".

On the Eastern Mediterranean conflict, MEPs called on "all parties involved, especially Turkey", to commit to an "urgent de-escalation of the conflict" and to participate in a dialogue which the European institutions and also Germany are trying to foster.

The European Parliament's resolution comes one week before the European summit on 24 and 25 September, where it will address the possibility of sanctioning Turkey if it does not withdraw its exploration ships from the areas in conflict with Greece and Cyprus.

The Parliament pointed out that sanctions "can only be avoided through dialogue and full progress", and called on the Council to "prepare to develop a list of restrictive measures" if such progress is not made. 

Erdogan ase opens "fair" negotiations

Turkey has declared this week that it is ready for "fair" negotiations to reduce tension with Greece and Cyprus over the search for natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish President said during a video conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Disputes can be resolved through negotiation, provided there is a fair approach in the Eastern Mediterranean," the president said, as reported by the Turkish Presidency in a statement.

During the talk with Merkel, the Islamist politician assured that Turkey will continue to apply an "active policy in defence of its own rights" and called on European countries to be fair and consistent in the issue of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Germany is trying to mediate to reduce the tension between Greece and Turkey over the search for gas in waters over which both countries claim to have territorial rights.

The conversation between Merkel and Erdogan took place on the same day that the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, reiterated from Nicosia the European Union's support for Greece and Cyprus and called for renewed dialogue between the two parties.

Last weekend Turkey withdrew the "Oruç Reis", a seismic research vessel that has been operating in the disputed area since July, although yesterday it announced that it will extend the activities of another explorer ship until 12 October.

barco perforacion
AFP/ BULENT KILIC - In this archive photo taken on 20 June 2019, Turkish police officers patrol next to the drilling vessel "Yavuz"