Fri. Jan 22nd, 2021

By LORNE COOK, The Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) – Concerning that their credibility is at stake, EU leaders on Thursday give green light to expansion of sanctions against Turkey over the discovery of gas reserves in the Mediterranean waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus Has been set for

At its final summit in October, leaders offered Ankara “a positive political EU-Turkish agenda”, with trade and customs benefits and more funding by Turkey to help manage Syrian refugees on its territory The possibility is included if it stops “illegal activities”. In the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

But the European Union’s foreign ministers unanimously agreed this week that Turkey’s behavior had not improved. Indeed, after presiding over his videoconferencing on Monday, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borel said that “the situation has worsened in many aspects.”

“The stakes are very precise, very clear: the credibility of the European Union,” Greek Prime Minister Kyrikos Mitsotakis told reporters. He said leaders said in October that there would be consequences if Turkey “continued its abusive behavior.”

“So now, it will be seen whether, as Europeans, we are really reliable we agree with ourselves,” Mitsotisis said.

The 27 European Union countries are divided on how best to handle Turkey. France and Cyprus have pushed for drastic measures such as economic sanctions, but other countries are concerned about reducing the country’s already deteriorating economy and destabilizing the region.

Still, EU diplomats fear the block’s “credibility, values ​​and interests” are on the line. “We cannot say that there is a problem in October and there is nothing in December when things have gone haywire,” said further from the summit. He was not allowed to speak on the record as discussions continued.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the threat of sanctions and accused the European Union, a candidate to join Turkey, although its membership talks would act “outrageously” and to keep its promises Has failed.

“Any decision to impose sanctions against Turkey will not be of great concern to Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters.

Exactly one year ago, the European Union established a system for travel restrictions and asset freezes on people, companies or organizations associated with drilling activities “that are not authorized by the Republic of Cyprus in the territorial sea or in its Special Economic Zone” . ” The zone or on its continental shelf. “

Two officers are currently on the list: Vice President of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation and Deputy Director of its Exploration Department. The idea would be to add more people or some organizations to the list, diplomats confirmed.

It is not clear anyway whether more sanctions will slow Turkey. Steps have been taken in the past – the lack of funds has meant preparing Turkey for EU membership and the virtual freezing of its accession negotiations – yet Ankara has only become vocal.

On top of that, Erdogan has shown his willingness to encourage migrants and refugees from Syria to cross the border into Greece and Europe, which is deeply destabilized by the arrival of more than 1 million people in 2015. That their demands are well understood.

Turkey also plays a military role in Libya, a main jumping off point in Africa for migrants hoping to reach Europe.

Elena Becteros contributed to this report in Athens

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