European Union leaders on Friday sent a stern warning to Turkey, urging the country to stop its “provocations and pressures” in the Eastern Mediterranean or face sanctions.
“We want a positive and constructive relationship with Turkey, and this would also be very much in Ankara’s interest,” European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said after a meeting of the EU leaders.
“But it will only work if the provocations and pressures stop. We, therefore, expect that Turkey from now on abstains from unilateral actions,” von der Leyen said.
“In case of such renewed actions by Ankara, the EU will use all its instruments and options available. We have a toolbox that we can apply immediately.”
Yesterday, Ms. Von der Leven foreshadowed the official EU announcement with a Tweet directed to Turkey.
“We reaffirm our solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Nobody can drive a wedge between us. We expect Turkey to stop its unilateral and illegal actions. This is a precondition for a positive long term agenda,” she Tweeted.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece was “absolutely satisfied” with the final version of the statement after a tense few days when initial drafts of the statement that were leaked failed to mention sanctions.
“The European Union sent yesterday a message of unity, solidarity and determination. It made clear with absolute certainty that the cessation of any unilateral action is a precondition for improvement of the relations between the European Union and Turkey, and this is something we all desire,” Mitsotakis said following the meeting of the EU leaders.
“It also made abundantly clear the consequences that will occur should Turkey continue its aggressive behavior,” the Greek premier said.
“Greece is absolutely satisfied by the results of the summit and we are looking forward to the resumption, as soon as possible, of the exploratory talks, to which both sides have committed themselves,” he said, adding in a video Tweet that the EU sent a clear message.
The EU warning comes amid growing frustration from various members of the 27-nation bloc to take a tougher position against Turkey over its aggressive actions toward Greece and Cyprus.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called, outright, for ending EU accession talks with Turkey and for imposing of immediate sanctions on the country.
He criticized Ankara’s slide into authoritarianism and said its recent gas exploration efforts in the East Mediterranean were a clear infringement of international law and a threat to Europe’s borders.
“We finally need to see a clear reaction to Turkey’s actions,” Kurz said in Brussels. “The European Union has to finally set up red lines for President (Tayyip) Erdogan, meaning an end of accession talks and sanctions against Turkey.”
But the EU leaders added that Turkey would be rewarded if it changed its behavior.
EU leaders said that if Ankara continues efforts to stop its provocative actions, the bloc has “agreed to launch a positive political EU-Turkey agenda,” according to a statement.
The incentives include modernization of customs union, closer trade ties, and an improved EU-Turkey migration deal.
Meanwhile, during a speech in the Turkish Parliament, President Erdogan described his country’s operations in the East Mediterranean as its most important “naval struggle of the past few centuries.”
He went on to say the EU was an “ineffective, horizonless and shallow” structure that has become a “slave to the conceit” of Greece and Cyprus.
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