ATHENS – Greece's request the European Union sanction Turkey for sending an energy research vessel and warships into waters near the island of Kastellorizo was pushed aside, the bloc reluctant to confront President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis wanted a harder line but the EU's reticence to act was led by Germany, worried that getting tough would cut off any attempt at getting Erdogan to negotiate, said Kathimerini.
“I am waiting with great interest for Josep Borrell’s announcement on the options for sanctions on Turkey,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said of the EU’s foreign policy chief before the bloc's foreign ministers Berlin meeting.
“We consider this an absolute necessity in order to achieve a de-escalation in the Mediterranean,” he said, but many EU governments said squeezing Erdogan would get his back up, the paper said.
“This makes it difficult to impose sanctions,” a source not named said, indicating Erdogan can do what he wants and won't face penalties even though he has brought Turkey and Greece to the edge of a conflict that could engulf the region.
The EU is worried that Erdogan, whose country his holding nearly four million refugees and migrants who fled war and strife and economic hardships in their countries, would release them on the bloc through Greek islands already holding more 34,000, and another 66,000 on the mainland.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier get Erdogan to pull back his ships but he sent them in again after Greece struck a deal with Egypt setting seas boundaries in response to a similar agreement Turkey made with Libya, claiming parts of Greece's Continental Shelf.
That led Erdogan to cancel planned talks in Ankara and his rhetoric grew even more belligerent, the EU and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who visited both countries, wanting diplomacy that has utterly failed.
Borrell has been timid in wanting to tangle with Erdogan and put Greece's request for sanctions in the waste basket, saying “only political proposals” would be discussed by the foreign chiefs although they haven't worked.
“Everybody is focusing on what kind of decisions we will propose regarding sanctions,” Borrell said. “As you know, this is an informal meeting; it cannot take decisions, only political proposals that will be developed later,” he said, although the foreign ministers said that at earlier meeting and now are saying it again.
“I think that the discussions will be important, because the level of the sanctions and who to sanction is something that needs to be fully considered,” he added, using careful diplomatic code to say nothing.
Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas earlier said Borrel should come up with “a catalogue of sanctions” at the Berlin meeting which isn't going to happen.
US President Donald Trump held a second telephone call with Mitsotakis after he had earlier also called Erdogan on the phone, and was said to have told the Greek leader that Turkey was urged to stop aggression to de-escalate tensions.