Greece on Friday will be seeking strong language in the text of the conclusions of the European Union summit in Brussels that will make the prospect of sanctions against Ankara “tangible” and will clearly clarify the next steps, if Turkey does not de-escalate tension in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Greek government is well aware, as demonstrated on the summit’s first day on Thursday, that there is a favourable international stance toward Greece’s positions and that most hitherto sceptics have realised that Turkey’s moves are beyond the pale.
France and Germany, for example, warned Ankara that it could face EU sanctions for its “provocations” in the eastern Mediterranean and gave it a week to clarify its position.
“It’s clear to us that Turkey is permanently carrying out provocative acts which are unacceptable,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference alongside his German and Polish counterparts. The ball, he added, is in Ankara’s court, but the EU is ready to change the balance of power if Turkey doesn’t return to dialogue.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described Turkey’s decision to send the Oruc Reis back to the East Med after it had withdrawn in September as “inadmissible”.
“It’s been twice that expected discussions have not taken place and we don’t know when they will happen,” he said. “We must wait to see if there is progress in a week and then we’ll see what attitude needs to be adopted by the EU,” he said.
Ankara appeared unfazed, engaging in what Greece saw as tactical manoeuvres while the Oruç Reis research vessel continued its activities in an area south of Kastellorizo island.
More specifically, Ankara refused an overflight permit for a plane carrying Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias back from a visit to Baghdad, forcing the aircraft to remain in the air for 20 minutes circling over Mosul. Turkey has refuted this was done deliberately, claiming the plane had not provided the required flight plan.
At the same time, another Turkish vessel, the Kanuni drillship, sailed slowly on an east to northwest course late Wednesday and early Thursday morning, passing south of Kastellorizo and Rhodes, before heading up the Aegean on Friday to Haydarpasa in Istanbul and from there to the Black Sea.
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced with permission.)