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At Turkey Showdown, Greece Now Wants EU to Get Tough

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

(Ibrahim Laleli/DHA via AP)

After pulling back demands for sanctions over Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Greece's New Democracy government wants them taken up again at a Dec. 10-11 meeting, complaining that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is playing the bloc's leaders to buy time.

Turkey has the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo but Erdogan said they would be pulled out ahead of the EU meeting, but Greek officials said they aren't buying that act again.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis withdrew his call for sanctions to give diplomacy a chance which led to Turkey – which had taken its ships away from Greek waters – immediately sending them back in again.

Erdogan's supposed new conciliatory stance is seen by Greece as a ruse, Kathimerini said, and Mitsotakis is expected to renew his call for sanctions that would at any rate exempt Erdogan.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece still favors dialogue but believes Erdogan doesn't while saying he does in an apparent bid to skirt sanctions during the COVID-19 pandemic that has hurt Turkey hard, the economy there also battered.

Dendias said that for dialogue to be serious that Turkey must follow international laws it doesn't recognize, such as the United Nations Law of the Sea that Erdogn invokes to his advantage.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou pointed out that Turkey’s behavior destabilizes all the countries in the region and Europe, and that the EU has begun to understand that.

The EU has been reluctant to provoke Erdogan too much in fear he will unleash on the lock through Greece and its islands more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war and strife in the Mideast and economic hardships in other areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Papaioannou referred to the conclusions of the European Council of October 1 that warned Turkey to change its stance or face the possibility of sanctions, stressing that its behavior “no longer gives Europe any other choice,” although that warning has been given before and not acted on.

Turkey is continuing to drill off Cyprus for oil and gas in defiance of soft EU sanctions affecting only two executives of Turkey's state-run petroleum company who are beyond the reach of the bloc.