Turkey unswayed by potential EU sanctions over Eastern Mediterranean
Sanctions would not prevent Turkey from its offshore oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, a Turkish official has said, adding that such a move would likely add fuel to fire in an already volatile situation.
The European Union warned earlier this week it could impose sanctions on Turkey over "provocations and pressures".
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on Ankara to "abstain from unilateral actions" in the Eastern Mediterranean.
She told reporters at the time that the EU wanted "a positive and constructive relationship with Turkey and this would be also very much in Ankara’s interest."
"But it will only work if the provocations and pressures stop," she said.
"We therefore expect that Turkey from now on abstains from unilateral actions. In case of such renewed actions by Ankara the EU will use all its instruments and options available. We have a toolbox that we can apply immediately."
A senior Turkish official told Reuters such sanctions on Turkey endanger potential dialogue between Ankara and Athens.
EU leaders on Friday had broken a diplomatic deadlock and assured Cyprus it would punish Turkey if it continued explorations.
Greece and Turkey set up a military hotline on Thursday to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean, where they are at loggerheads over energy resources and maritime borders, NATO said.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the breakthrough, which comes after several weeks of talks between military officials from the two alliance members.
The two NATO members agreed to the talks after a standoff over gas exploration in contested waters led to a dramatic ramping-up of tensions, stoking fears that conflict could erupt, perhaps by accident.
"Following a series of technical meetings between the military representatives of Greece and Turkey at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, a bilateral military de-confliction mechanism was established on Thursday," NATO said in a statement.
"The mechanism is designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean. It includes the creation of a hotline between Greece and Turkey, to facilitate de-confliction at sea or in the air."
Stoltenberg thanked both sides for their "constructive engagement".
"This safety mechanism can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts to address the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further," Stoltenberg said.
The announcement of the breakthrough came as EU leaders began tough summit talks on their relations with Turkey.