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Politics

Mitsotakis: There Will Be “Further Decisions” on Turkey in March

December 11, 2020

BRUSSELS — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, commenting on the European Council's conclusions regarding Turkey, assured reporters that they can expect the EU to take "further decisions" in March if Turkey's behaviour does not change.

"The pressure must work in such a way as to convince Turkey that it stands to gain by stopping its provocative activities in the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone and …[sitting down to] exploratory contacts to delineate the continental shelf and maritime zones," Mitsotakis said.

He pointed out that the Turkish research vessel "Oruc Reis" had continued its activities at a time when Turkey was saying that it was ready to begin talks, stressing the need for "consistency and continuity" and expressing hope that the European Council's conclusions "are not misinterpreted by Turkey".

He also noted that a resumption of exploratory contacts "does not depend on Greece but primarily on Turkey," adding that Greece was ready to talk "from the moment that tension de-escalates."

Mitsotakis said the conclusions also reflect Europe's desire for closer coordination with the United States on a series of issues, such as the new president's statement about a return to the Paris agreement, while also referring to Washington's stance toward Turkey.

"Both in the US and the EU, the opinion is forming that Turkey generates more problems than it solves," he said.

Mitsotakis said the result of the summit was in line with the decisions taken by European leaders in October, when they said that decisions will be taken if there is further escalation by Turkey: "These decisions were taken. Things did not go in the direction we hoped for. The EU took the first decisions and set in motion the next steps that it may need to take."

He pointed out that this was the first time that the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and the European Commission have been given express authorisation to draw up a document listing options and tools, with a clear time frame.

He noted that Athens' strategy was fully aligned with that of the Cyprus Republic and this "allowed us to achieve this result that is beneficial for Greece, Cyprus and the EU."

The prime minister admitted that not all countries viewed Turkey in the same way but noted that those previously opposed to any sanctions on Turkey had revised their opinion to some extent, adding that diplomacy was a "long game".

"Greece is proceeding with seriousness, responsibility, self-confidence and has built a front of alliances. It is not enough to believe you are right but to be able to convince others," he added.

Regarding Greece's request for an arms embargo, Mitsotakis said that this was pressed hard but not an issue to be raised at the European Council, since it concerned individual member-states on a bilateral level. He pointed out that, at a time when Turkey was behaving in this way, exports of weapons systems to that country were contrary to the principle of solidarity and undermined the interests of the EU, while awareness of this was growing within member-states.

Outlining the Council's conclusions on Turkey, Mitsotakis highlighted the decision to expand the list of persons and entities involved in the illegal gas explorations in the Eastern Mediterranean, noting that this had not been possible in October, the instructions given to Borrell and the European Commission for a report on the entire range of EU-Turkey relations, as well as possible tools and options outlined in the October decision, which included sanctions against Turkey.

He also pointed to the EU's very clear condemnation of Turkish provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean toward both Greece and Cyprus and the call to show consistency and continuity in the direction of de-escalation after the departure of the Oruc Reis, so that exploratory contacts can begin.

"At the same time, included as a condition for continuing exploratory contacts, if these begin, is refraining from all illegal activities – a condition obviously set by Greece," he added.

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