Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

EU to blacklist more Turkish officials

  • Istanbul skyline: Turkey appears to have reconciled itself to the EU punishment (Photo: Sercan Tirnavali)

EU leaders will agree to blacklist Turkish officials at Thursday (10 December) and Friday's summit, but an arms embargo is "off the table".

That was the gist of summit conclusions drawn up by the 27 EU states' ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday, seen by EUobserver.

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The draft text "invites the Council to prepare additional listings" such as those one year ago, which imposed visa-bans and asset-freezes on two low-level Turkish officials who organised gas-drilling operations in Cypriot-claimed waters.

The "scope" of people listed might be extended in future, the text added.

But any potentially bigger sanctions, touching on "EU-Turkey political and economic relations", would be discussed at another summit, due in March next year.

Greece had called for an EU arms embargo on Turkey.

But an EU diplomat said on Wednesday: "It [the leaders' decision] will not go in an extreme way, not in the way of the appeasers, or the hawks either".

It normally takes EU officials a couple of weeks before new blacklists enter into force.

Asked if Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could still do something to stop the process, the EU diplomat said: "It may be too late ... the cursor will have to move".

"What we need are sustainable signs of wanting to start on a new basis of cooperative relations," he added.

"What we have seen is that a ship is withdrawn, only to come back again one week later. That's not sustainable," the EU diplomat said, referring to Turkey's gas-drilling ship, the Oruç Reis.

An arms embargo was "off the table" because Turkey was an important Nato ally, the diplomat noted.

Turkey was also facing a threat of US sanctions over its purchase of a Russian air-defence system.

And Europe wanted to see what the incoming US administration of president-elect Joe Biden would do before taking any "hawkish" steps, the draft summit conclusions indicated.

"The EU will seek to coordinate on these matters with the US," the text said.

The conclusions condemned Turkey's "unilateral actions and provocations", as well as Erdoğan's "rhetoric against the EU, EU member states, and European leaders," after the Turkish president called French president Emmanuel Macron "mentally ill" and other slurs.

The conclusions also pointed to Turkey's unwanted role in Libya, where it has sent troops and drones to fight on one side in a civil war.

"The European Council called on all actors [in the Libya conflict] to act in accordance with the principles of the Berlin process," the draft text said, referring to Germany-brokered Libya peace talks.

Thursday's summit had earlier been billed as a "watershed moment" in EU-Turkey relations by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, referring to the future of Turkey's EU accession process.

The conclusions did mention launching a new "positive agenda" on economy, trade, and migration, if things improved.

But with Brexit, the EU budget, the pandemic, climate change, terrorism, and transatlantic relations also on Thursday's to-do list, the EU diplomat said: "There's a lot to say about the totality of our relations [with Turkey], but that's for another time, not for tomorrow".

Turkish reaction

Meanwhile, Erdoğan sounded conciliatory on Wednesday, indicating that he had reconciled himself to the EU's minimalist punishment.

"It is never possible for us to compromise here [on the maritime disputes]. But if Greece really acts honestly as a neighbour, we will continue to be available at the [negotiating] table," he said.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who met Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó in Ankara on Wednesday, also said: "We want to improve our ties with the EU. We are not saying this because there is a summit or because there are sanctions ... on the agenda".

And that left it to Ömer Çelik, a spokesman for Erdoğan's ruling AK Party, to voice defiance at a lower level.

The EU's "language of sanctions" was due to "racists and fascists" in Europe, Çelik told Turkish press on Wednesday, according to the Reuters news agency.

"Using [such] language ... is an eclipse of the mind," Çelik said.

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