Greece: EU must step up response to Turkey’s ‘aggression’

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The European Union must step up its response to Turkey’s escalating “aggression” in the eastern Mediterranean because it’s directed against the entire 27-member EU and not just some member nations, Greece’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias criticized Turkey’s deployment of warships to support a Turkish research vessel engaged in an “illegal” hydrocarbons search in waters where EU members Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.

“The escalation of Turkey’s aggression is directed against the European Union and consequently, it follows that Europe’s response must also be stepped up in order to counter it,” Dendias said after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is expected to present to the foreign ministers of the bloc’s 27 member nations later this month a list of options for new possible sanctions against Turkey, he said.

The issue will again be taken up when the leaders of the seven Mediterranean countries in the EU meet in September and then at a full EU leaders’ summit.

Turkey’s actions are “an escalation and an unacceptable militarization” that “betray the dead-end nature of its own choices,” Dendias said.

Greece has deployed its own warships to the area between Cyprus and the island of Crete where Turkey restarted prospecting for oil and gas this month. The Greek and Turkish navies have been shadowing each other in a high-stakes game of brinkmanship for over a week.

Greece and Cyprus say Turkey’s moves breach international law and flout repeated EU and US calls to cease and desist. Turkey says it won’t stop defending its rights and those breakaway Turkish Cypriots to hydrocarbon deposits in the region.

Christodoulides said EU members agree that the unfolding developments in the eastern Mediterranean will determine the future of EU-Turkey relations. He renewed an EU-supported call to Ankara to negotiate a maritime border deal with the Cypriot government.

Turkey doesn’t recognize ethnically divided Cyprus as a state and claims 44% of the Mediterranean island nation’s exclusive economic zone as its own. Another sizable chunk of that zone is claimed by a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the island’s north that only Turkey recognizes.

Christodoulides said Cyprus supports a “carrot and stick” approach to the EU’s relations with Turkey, one in which cooperation is counterbalanced by “a substantive reaction” when EU principles are violated.

Both Dendias and Christodoulides underscored a willingness to open a dialogue with Turkey to serve the regional cooperation interests of all involved.

“We’re always in favor of dialogue, but dialogue can’t take place if it isn’t in line with international law, the law of the sea and good neighborly relations,” Dendias said.

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