Monday

18th Jan 2021

EU leaders unsure how to talk to Turkey

  • EU Council president Charles Michel blurred EU deadlines (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders flip-flopped on how to handle Turkey's latest military insults to Greece at Friday's (16 October) summit.

At first, they had planned to warn Turkey of an EU arms ban.

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The EU Council "reiterates the commitment of all EU member states to strong national positions regarding their arms export policy to Turkey," they had planned to say in an initial draft of their communiqué, according to the Politico website.

EU states announced an informal arms embargo on Turkey in 2019 when it invaded northern Syria.

But they have never spoken of it since and they dropped the reference to it in the final summit declaration on Friday.

The leaders "deplored" Turkey's recent actions and "urged" Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to "reverse" his collision course with Greece and Cyprus.

EU diplomats had previously drafted potential sanctions.

But EU Council president Charles Michel also blurred EU deadlines, when he said there would be no decision before leaders met again in December.

"We plan a summit in December. And we have planned, indeed, to tackle again and to assess the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and in Turkey. I would like to follow this approach," Michel said on Friday.

"We will follow the developments closely, day by day, week by week, in cooperation with the most affected member states," he added.

Michel spoke after Germany had earlier given Turkey one week to comply.

"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," German foreign minister Heiko Maas had said in Paris on Thursday.

Meanwhile, German chancellor Angela Merkel said nothing about deadlines on Friday.

"We agreed that the recent unilateral measures taken by Turkey, which are of course provocative, are increasing tensions rather than easing them," she said in Brussels.

"We are keen to continue along the path we have taken with Turkey," she added, alluding to German hopes to chair Greece-Turkey talks.

Michel had not originally planned to discuss the Turkey crisis at all, even though Turkey had sent a ship into Greek-claimed waters on the eve of the summit on Wednesday.

But the Greek prime minister insisted to be heard, amid other grievances, such as over Turkey's airspace denial to a Greek minister's plane on Thursday.

For its part, Cyprus also complained about recent Turkish-Cypriot violations of UN accords on a no-man's land beach on the divided island.

"We need a united and determined response to Turkey's illegal actions in order to de-escalate tensions," Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said after Friday's talks.

The EU foreign relations chief, Josep Borrell, who has spearheaded European diplomacy with Ankara, could not attend the meeting, due to a coronavirus scare in his delegation after a trip to Ethiopia.

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