BRUSSELS -- Turkish aggression, whether expressed through unilateral actions or extreme rhetoric, can no longer be tolerated, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday in doorstep statements before the Special European Council."The time has come for Europe to discuss bravely and sincerely what kind of relationship it really wants to have with Turkey," Mitsotakis said.While Turkish aggression violates the sovereign rights of two EU member states - Greece and Cyprus - it also "touches on the significant geopolitical interests of all Europe in the Mediterranean," he said.
There are only two choices, the PM noted, either the path of dialogue in diplomacy, which must be based on respect of international law, avoidance of unilateral actions and good neighborhood rules, or the path of escalating tension, which sooner or later will inevitably lead to Europe taking measures against Turkey.
Greece has "proven it wants to follow the first path. It's up to Turkey to do the same, but it must do so with consistency and constancy," Mitsotakis stressed.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier on Thursday met European Council President Charles Michel, as soon as he arrived in Brussels for the special EU Summit.Michel and Mitsotakis agreed that the EU wishes to have a good relationship with Turkey and stability in the region, but added, however, that the EU is prepared to use all the tools at its disposal in order to protect its interests and promote its goals.
During the meeting, Mitsotakis said that Greece wishes to have good neighbourly relations without tensions in the region but it was clear, he added, that it was now in Turkey's hands to choose either cooperation or to face the consequences of its behaviour.
ΕU leaders were holding wide-ranging talks about the EU's troubled ties with Turkey over its drilling in the Mediterranean Sea, its roles in the conflicts in Libya and Syria, and as a source of migrants trying to reach Europe.
Cyprus could be appeased if its partners underline their support in the final summit communique, or in a special statement from European Council President Charles Michel, who is chairing the two-day meeting. The leaders could then give a green light to sanctions against dozens of Belarus officials.
That would allow national envoys to quickly enact the sanctions in coming days, the EU diplomats said.
French President Emmanuel Macron was staunch in his support, saying that “solidarity is non-negotiable” when it comes to Cyprus, but also to Greece in its long-running dispute with Turkey.
“When a European Union member state is attacked, threatened, when its territorial waters are not respected, it's the duty of Europeans to show their solidarity,” Macron said.
In a televised address marking the 60th anniversary of Cyprus' independence, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades expressed Thursday his “sincere gratitude to all European Union member states for their staunch support and solidarity in light of Turkey's provocations.”
But Anastasiades said he wants the leaders to take “a more tangible and effective stance to bring about an end to gunboat diplomacy and for the crisis to be succeeded by dialogue or recourse to the international court on the basis of international law and the law of the sea.”
In Ankara, meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described his country's operations in the eastern Mediterranean its most important “naval struggle of the past few centuries.”
During a speech in parliament, Erdogan said the EU had turned into an “ineffective, horizonless and shallow” structure and become a “slave to the conceit” of Greece and Cyprus. However, he also said that Turkey is committed to resolving disputes through dialogue.
Ursula von der Leyen: European Council will reaffirm full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday expressed her full support for Greece and Cyprus, in a doorstep statement upon her arrival at the special European Council. She said that the EU desires a constructive relationship with Turkey but also has a "toolbox" at its disposal for either outcome.
"We will discuss Turkey. I am certain that the European Council will reaffirm full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Where the EU's relationship with Turkey is concerned there are two possibilities, either the tensions [will continue] rising - that is something that we don't want - or there is de-escalation and we are moving towards a constructive relationship. This is what we do want but, either way, there is a toolbox at the disposal of the EU. We want de-escalation, we want a positive agenda and we will discuss this together today," she said.