ISTANBUL – Turkey does not expect to face European Union sanctions over a dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday, a day after a Turkish survey ship pulled out of contested waters.
The EU says it fully supports member states Greece and Cyprus in their dispute with Turkey and has said it is drawing up potential sanctions if dialogue does not begin. The bloc’s leaders could make a decision at a summit on Sept. 24-25.
Cavusoglu repeated Turkey was open to talks without pre-conditions, but added that the seismic research vessel Oruc Reis will soon resume operations after it anchored off Turkey’s southern coast on Sunday.
He said he did not expect EU leaders, who have already agreed modest sanctions against Turkey, to take further steps next week but such measures could not be ruled out.
“It could be against our ship, our company, individuals. They took such decisions in the past. Have we given up on our determination? No, our determination increased,” he told broadcaster NTV.
Tensions have risen over claims and counter claims pitting Turkey against Greece and Cyprus – which are backed by France – to maritime areas potentially rich in natural gas. Several countries have conducted naval exercise in the region, and Turkey has other vessels searching for oil and gas off Cyprus.
The threat of sanctions has in part pushed the Turkish lira deeper into record low territory, complicating the country’s recovery from a sharp economic slump due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Turkey’s Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted on Monday that a peaceful solution could be found. “Greece and EU countries must not waste the chance given for diplomacy and must take reciprocal steps,” he said, without elaborating.
In a brief visit to Cyprus on Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States remains “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions at sea. Ankara responded that Washington needed to be more neutral.