ANKARA- His anger rising after European Union leaders said they would consider a travel ban and freezing assets of Turkish officials – it wasn’t said if that included him – over his country’s drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to pull the plug on long-delayed talks to join the bloc.
Turkey has been negotiating to get into the EU since 2005 in on-again, off-again talks that were set back after he purged civil society, the military and judiciary and began jailing journalists after a failed July 2016 coup attempt against him.
Despite the EU mulling tougher sanctions after issuing softer measures, Erdogan said there would no stopping drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with the United Nations ignoring pleas from Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to get involved.
Speaking in Ankara ahead of a visit to Washington, Erdogan ripped the EU’s decision and said Turkey was acting in line with its rights based on international laws it doesn’t recognize unless in his country’s favor, such as the UN’s Laws of the Sea.
“Hey EU, know this: Turkey is not one of those countries you have come to know until now. We are a country that sits at the negotiating table with you…” Erdogan told reporters. “These negotiations may suddenly end,” the Cyprus Mail reported.
The EU has been reluctant to be too tough on Turkey with Erdogan warning he could unleash millions of refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war and strife, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan on the bloc and nearby already-overwhelmed Greek islands.
“You may take this lightly, but these doors (to Europe) will open and these Daesh (Islamic State) members will be sent to you. Do not try to threaten Turkey over developments in Cyprus,” Erdogan said.
With an abysmal human rights record and losing support from Germany and France in its EU bid, Erdogan indicated he was leaning toward giving up on what seems an already-failed effort although using it as a bargaining chip.