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Politics

Erdogan Unafraid of EU Sanctions, Says Greece Ducking Seas Talks

December 9, 2020

ANKARA — A day before the European Council is set to discuss possible sanctions at a Dec. 10-11 meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he doesn't fear penalties over his forging ahead with plans to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands.

He also said Greece is trying to avoid having exploratory talks over the rights to the seas, adding that, “If Greece is honest, Turkey is open to talks,” said Kathimerini and the news agency Reuters.

Erdogan, who has played cat-and-mouse with the European Union – he has repeatedly sent an energy research ship and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo only to withdraw them and vice-versa – said sanctions would have little impact.

He would be exempted and accused the bloc's leaders of not keeping promises for withholding 3 billion euros ($3.63 billion from a 6-billion euro ($7.27 billion) pledge for Turkey to contain some 4.4 million refugees and migrants.

They went to Turkey fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan, as well as economic hardship in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions but Turkey has let human traffickers keep sending them to Greece, especially the islands.

That's in violation of a 2016 swap deal in which Turkey was also supposed to get visa-free travel in the EU for its citizens and faster-track entry into the bloc, both stalled, especially after he purged civil society, the judiciary, educational system, military and jailed journalists after a failed July 2016 coup attempt against him. 

Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara that "honest leaders" within the EU were against sanctions on Turkey and that Turkey would continue to defend its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, claiming waters off Greek islands.

That was done under a maritime deal Turkey signed with Libya that no other country recognizes, Greece countering with a similar agreement with Egypt that led Erdogan to call off earlier talks set for Ankara that weren't rescheduled.

He also criticized the United States for backing Greece, although Turkey bought Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that undermine NATO – the defense alliance to which all three countries belong. 

Erdogan added he would talk to President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticized the Turkish president, once Biden takes office in January, 2021, although the incoming American President is a staunch Hellenophile.

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