ANKARA – After the European Union backed down on sanction threats over his plan to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it wouldn't have stopped him even if those had gone ahead.
The EU earlier in December said penalties would be imposed but – as it did in October – stepped back and said no sanctions would even be discussed until March, 2021 even as he has mocked the bloc's leaders and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Erdogan said those threatening Turkey with sanctions, which would exempt him in any case, will wind up disappointed and losing.
In a videotaped message for a highway opening, the Turkish president noted that his country “will never hesitate to use its sovereign rights," the state-run Anadolu agency reported.
"They tried to confront Turkey using every method, such as using terrorist group, coup attempts, political and economic traps, sanctions … thank God they have not been successful so far,” he said in a scattershot attack.
He said the EU and Greece and anyone wanting to work with Turkey would have to use respect and fairness. "We leave the door open for those who are ready to sit and talk with us on equal terms and agree with fair offers,” he said after saying they would have to make concessions, not Turkey.
Mitsotakis withdrew his first call for sanctions to give diplomacy a chance but that immediately failed and led to Erdogan resending an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
He withdrew them just ahead of this month's meeting but, seeing no penalties will be implemented, said they'll go back in again, giving Turkey months of time to hunt for oil and gas in and around Greek waters.
The EU imposed soft sanctions against only two executives of Turkey's state-run petroleum company for drilling in Cypriot waters but Turkey ignored and defied those.