Turkey is once again facing the threat of sanctions as calls grow within the EU to impose punitive measures against it.
The return of the Turkish research ship, Oruc Reis, to disputed waters in the Eastern Mediterranean has revived tensions between Greece and Ankara, and the decision by the North-Cypriot’s Prime Minister, Ersin Tatar, to reopen the island’s occupied ghost town of Varosha, has also angered officials in Nicosia.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly ignored calls from the EU to desist and has instead been increasingly aggressive in the region.
But this has meant that voices calling for sanctions against Turkey in Brussels have increased.
French MEP, Nathalie Loiseau, told Euronews that there are “no more” member states left that don’t consider the issue of Turkey a serious one.
“Turkey is making military manoeuvres in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Libya, in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh. What are we waiting for in order to give a strong signal to Turkey? I strongly advise the European Council to leave behind this naivety and passiveness and to express itself through actions of support for Greece and Cyprus. By actions I mean, measures, sanctions,” Loiseau explained.
Earlier this month, the EU threatened to slap sanctions on Turkey if it failed to stop what the bloc described as illegal drilling and energy exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey’s latest move has also outraged Berlin and even resulted in the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, cancelling his scheduled trip to Ankara on Wednesday.
However, he visited both Athens and Nicosia and insisted on a dialogue between all parties involved.
“We want to keep what we have tried to do in the last weeks and months, literally to create space for direct talks on the [EU Council] agenda, but for this, we need an atmosphere that is characterised by trust and reliability. And due to the development of the last days, this cannot be achieved at the moment.”
Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, believes that including Ankara in the region is key to stopping Erdoğan from pursuing his current aggressive strategy.
“As long as East Med initiatives continue to exclude Turkey, Turkey will continue to push back against these initiatives of what it perceives to be the weakest link of this alignment against Greece and Cyprus,” Cagaptay told Euronews.
“I think not the EU, but NATO can play a role. Turkey sees NATO more as a grand arbitrator, as a neutral power. Turkey and Greece are both NATO members, so it sees this more as a neutral platform. I think Turkey sees the EU more as dominated by France and too much tilt towards Athens and Nicosia.”
With Ankara’s aggression showing no sign of abating, the issue of sanctions could squeeze its way on to leaders’ agenda at Friday’s summit․