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Politics

Turkey Readies for EU Showdown Over Greece, Seas Dispute

September 28, 2020

If scheduled talks with Greece fail to reach an agreement on boundaries in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Turkey could face sanctions in a head-to-head meeting Oct. 1-2 with the European Union.

Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader has demanded meaningful action for Turkey planning to hunt for energy off Greek islands after repeated violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and ships.

But Germany, home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage, has been reluctant to back penalties and the EU is fearful that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc through Greece after they'd gone to Turkey fleeing war, strife and hardships in their homelands.

Turkey said the EU isn't being fair in backing Greece, a member of the bloc that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005, the prospects sliding away after Erdogan purged civil society, the courts, educational system, and military and jailed journalists by the dozens after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

With Greece building an international alliance and the EU now vowing to get tough, Turkey sees the so-called summit as a chance to reboot faltering relations although Erdogan said he won't pull back drilling plans.

For now he withdrew the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships from around the Greek island of Kastellorizo, done so he said to give diplomacy a chance but said he's ready to pull the trigger and send them back, which could lead to a conflict engulfing the region.

NATO, the defense alliance to which both belong and which had refused to intervene, has stepped in to try to de-escalate the tension and the United States is also urging calm while backing Greece and Turkey simultaneously.

“I believe the EU summit has a chance to have a reset in Turkey-EU relations. It is an important opportunity. We can have a reset there. And I see this willingness on the part of many EU member countries,” Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters.

“They also have to understand that they cannot expect Turkey to do everything,” Kalin said in an interview. “It must be a mutual process. If Turkey is expected to do X, Y, Z, EU countries must fulfill their responsibilities as well.”

And despite the vow to confront Erdogan, it's likely the EU will back away again, the report said, after Turkey agreed for now to pull back its ships and talks which haven't been set.

Kalin said, adding the talks would continue where they left off and focus not just on issues of continental shelves and maritime limits, but on islands and air space but Greece wants a narrower agenda.

He said he believed the talks would have a positive impact and would also focus on political consultation and military-to-military talks. “In all of these three tracks we believe we will make some good progress very soon,” he said.

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