Paris, France – France and Germany accused Turkey on Thursday of continuing to provoke the European Union with its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, and gave it a week to clarify its positions.
Despite an EU summit deal on October 2 aimed at persuading Turkey to stop exploring for natural gas in waters disputed by Greece and Southern Cyprus, Turkey said on Wednesday it was restarting operations of a survey ship.
Turkey withdrew the vessel last month, just before the EU summit, at which economic sanctions were discussed, only to redeploy it on Monday.
The bloc said it would review the possibility of sanctions on Turkey at a European summit in December.
“It’s clear to us that Turkey is permanently carrying out provocative acts which are unacceptable,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference alongside his German and Polish counterparts. He said the ball was in Turkey’s court, but that the European Union was ready to change the balance of power if Turkey didn’t return to dialogue.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Turkey’s decision to send the vessel back to the Mediterranean was “inadmissible.”
Asked about the possibility of bringing forward EU sanctions, he said the bloc would wait a week to decide how to react. “It’s been twice that expected discussions have not taken place and we don’t know when they will happen,” he said. “We must wait to see if there is progress in a week and then we’ll see what attitude needs to be adopted by the EU.”
France and Germany warned Turkey on Thursday that it could face European Union sanctions for its “provocations,” after Turkey redeployed its search vessel on a new energy exploration mission in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking in Paris after a meeting of the French-German-Polish “Weimar Triangle,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated the EU stance that unless Turkey shows “respect for the integrity of Greece and Southern Cyprus” then the December European Council will consider initiating sanctions.
“We are forced to note that there are permanent acts of provocation on the part of Turkey which are not bearable, and therefore we really wish that Turkey clarifies its positions and returns to a spirit of dialogue,” he said.
Turkey redeployed its search vessel, Oruc Reis, near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, reigniting tensions between Greece and Turkey over sea boundaries and energy drilling rights, and putting the future of the planned resumption of talks between Greece and Turkey to resolve disputes into doubt. Those talks were last held in 2016. Those tensions had flared up over the summer, triggering fears of a confrontation between the two historic rivals and NATO allies.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he understood Greece’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue due to Turkey’s decision to again dispatch its ship.
Given Germany’s efforts to mediate between the parties “the behavior by Turkey to conduct another provocation, resulting in the already agreed process of dialogue not taking place, is more than annoying, including for us in our role as intermediary,” Maas said.
Maas said he continues to believe the conflict can be solved through dialogue and not with naval ships, and stressed Germany’s hope that there might be progress next week.
“And if there isn’t, then the European Union will have to face the question of how to deal with this and what consequences this will have,” Maas said.
Both Turkey and Greece have this week accused each other of engaging in “provocations,” including plans to hold military drills in the Aegean Sea later this month to coincide with the other country’s national public holiday.