The range of targets could go beyond the current focus on individuals linked to contentious energy drilling off Cyprus, according to draft findings for Thursday’s meeting, which was seen by the Financial Times. .
The document further suggests that the EU will seek to consult with President-elect Joe Biden’s new US administration on how to deal with a growing dispute that has stoked fears of a Mediterranean conflict and poisoned relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. .
Turkey has sent exploration drilling expeditions with escorts of warships to waters where Cyprus claims economic rights which the EU says are backed by international law.
A senior assistant to Mr Erdogan called the draft proposal “disappointing”. “I hope EU leaders avoid this language of sanctions and threats against Turkey,” Ibrahim Kalin said at an online event hosted by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank. . “Sanctions will never work … Everyone will lose at the end of the day.”
Earlier today, the Turkish president insisted Ankara was not concerned about the prospect of punitive measures. “In the Eastern Mediterranean, we will continue to protect whatever our rights are,” he said. “It is never possible for us to compromise here. But if Greece truly acts as a neighbor, we will continue to be available at the table.”
Turkey faces retaliation for carrying out “unilateral and provocative activities in the Eastern Mediterranean” since EU heads of state and government warned Ankara in October against its behavior, says the Minister. summit document. He calls on EU member states to complete an existing sanctions list comprising two executives from a Turkish state-owned oil company “and, if necessary, work on extending” punitive measures.
The document doesn’t give more details and – if approved by leaders at their meeting that begins Thursday – that would only be the start of the process of crafting new sanctions. EU diplomats said ideas already put forward by some member states for new measures included listing high-ranking people and companies involved in energy drilling, as well as tightening restrictions on arms sales. to Turkey.
EU opinion has hardened against Erdogan, with countries like France offering support to the traditionally hawkish nations of Cyprus and Greece, diplomats said. Ankara has ignored the current EU sanctions as being largely symbolic.
Tensions have been compounded by Mr Erdogan’s harsh rhetoric towards European leaders, including Frenchman Emmanuel Macron, with whom he clashed during the conflicts in Libya and Syria. More recently, the Turkish leader attacked Macron for his campaign against “Islamist separatism”, called for a boycott of French products and expressed the hope that the French people “get rid” of the French president as quickly as possible.
But Turkey, which is technically still a candidate for EU membership, also remains an important partner of the bloc in terms of trade, security, the fight against terrorism and migration. It shares a border with Iraq, Iran and Syria and is home to 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Many EU countries, including Germany, have avoided harsh sanctions, in part because they feared they would further damage Turkey’s fragile economy. Ankara is already reeling from a 24% drop in the value of the lira against the dollar this year, as well as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
EU countries will also stress that they have “a strategic interest in developing a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey,” says the draft summit conclusions. “The offer of a positive EU-Turkey agenda remains on the table, if Turkey wishes to promote a true partnership with the Union and its Member States and resolve disputes through dialogue and in accordance with international law,” they said. read.