BRUSSELS - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ appeal to the European Union to get Turkey to back off from a deal with Libya that claims large swathes of Greek seas was met with lip service and press releases but no sanctions or other actions.
Fearful that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will unleash millions more refugees and migrants on the bloc through already overwhelmed Greek islands, the EU’s leaders have been reluctant to get tough on him.
Erdogan had already position drillships in Cypriot waters to look for oil and gas, ignoring denunciations from the island’s government, Greece, the United States and soft EU sanctions that have had no effect.
After that he fashioned the deal with Libya which Greece said goes against international laws that Turkey doesn’t recognize unless it’s in its favor and Mitsotakis, the New Democracy leader, turned to the EU to help but got none.
The new European Commission President, Ursula von Der Leyen - a former defense minister for Germany - told a meeting of parliamentary group leaders of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) that the EU has Greece’s back, in words.
“We are on your side, Turkey’s action in the Aegean is unacceptable, we will send a clear message to Turkey,” she was reported by EurActiv as saying after Spain’s Joseph Borell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said the Turkey-Libya deal “is a cause of serious concern.”
“We express our solidarity and our support to Greece and Cyprus,” he said during a press conference after the meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels after Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the EU should condemn Turkey and consider sanctions, which Erdogan ignored.
“It’s clear that it is problematic. It poses major concerns to certain member states, in particular Greece and Cyprus," Borrell told reporters after chairing a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Brussels. Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically, have blasted the accord as being contrary to international law.
Borrell declined to say that the agreement breaks the law, but he said that "we are going to be studying this question very closely, being clear that any agreement must respect international law.”
“The Netherlands is always a staunch supporter of the rule of international law, and we side with Greece," said Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok. "International law should be upheld.”
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said “it’s a little bit astounding how they split up the Mediterranean among themselves. We’ll have to see how we deal with it.”
Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically, have blasted the accord as being contrary to international law.
In Cairo, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al warned that “Egypt will not stand idle by while a foreign country is threatening its interests," according to the official MENA news agency.
“Anyone who approaches the maritime, air, and land borders of Egypt should review himself. We will not accept or allow any mess at or close to our borders," he was quoted as saying, in another reference to Turkey.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)