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Politics

Greece Swallowed Diluted EU Sanctions Warning for Turkey

BRUSSELS — After demanding harsh sanctions be imposed on Turkey if talks over seas boundaries fail, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was satisfied with the European Union's decision for another warning instead.

Mitsotakis went into a two-day EU-Turkey meeting in Brussels that began Oct. 1 with a hard line for sanctions over Turkey's plan to drill for oil and gas around Greek islands as it's doing off Cyprus, facing only soft penalties there.

Before the EU stated sanctions might be imposed later if Turkey fails to keep its ships out, Greece objected to wording that would have gone soft on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's energy hunt plans.

Greece found the draft of the conclusions of the meeting initially unacceptable,  sources not named told Kathimerini, after Mitsotakis wouldn't support Cyprus' call for tougher sanctions for Turkey drilling off the island.

Greek officials were said to be upset that the text didn't specify when or if sanctions would actually be imposed of Erdogan went ahead with drilling as he said he would in any case.

In a turnabout, Mitsotakis said he was  happy with the conclusions, adding that Turkey had received a clear warning over its “aggressive behavior,” after ignoring previous warnings.

“The European Union sent yesterday a message of unity, solidarity and determination. It made clear with absolute certainty that the cessation of any unilateral action is a precondition for improvement of the relations between the European Union and Turkey, and this is something we all desire,” Mitsotakis said.

“It also made abundantly clear the consequences that will occur should Turkey continue its aggressive behavior,” he said although there were no assurances the EU, which has been lenient with Turkey, would do what it said.

the Greek premier said.

Ahead of the meeting, Mitsotakis said the EU was faced with two possible options.

“One is the path of dialogue, of diplomacy – a dialogue that must be based on respect for international law, on refraining from unilateral actions and on the rules of good neighborly relations,” he said.

“The alternative path is that of escalating tension, which will inevitably, sooner or later, make Europe take measures against Turkey,” Mitsotakis said before he agreed to a third option: more warnings.

Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean “can no longer be tolerated,” he had said while while urging member states to decide “the kind of relationship” they want with Turkey.

“The time has come for Europe to hold a courageous and frank debate about the kind of relationship it wants to maintain with Turkey,” Mitsotakis told journalists.

“One thing is certain: Turkish provocations, whether they are manifested through unilateral actions or through excessive rhetoric, they can no longer be tolerated,” he said.

“This is not just because Turkey’s behavior violates the sovereign rights of two member countries of the European Union, namely Greece and Cyprus, but because this behavior of Turkey impinges upon key European geopolitical interests in the Mediterranean,” he said.

The EU had put sanctions on hold to let diplomacy have a chance, although that has repeatedly failed with Erdogan, who agreed to talks with Greece over who has rights to the seas, which will be held in Ankara, not Athens.

“Greece is absolutely satisfied by  the results of the summit and we are looking forward to the resumption, as soon as possible, of the exploratory talks, to which both sides have committed themselves,” Mitsotakis said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage, wouldn't support sanctions and said she was “committed to finding a peaceful solution to the tensions,” while French President Emmanuel Macron said EU solidarity with Cyprus was “non-negotiable,” but also refused to go along with Cypriot demands for tougher penalties on Turkey.

Earlier, Erdogan sent a letter to all EU leaders except Greece and Cyprus, lobbying for the bloc to treat Turkey more fairly while blaming Greece and Cyprus for the tensions although Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes.

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