Erdoğan is challenging EU to sanction Turkey, columnist says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s move to re-deploy a survey ship at the centre of a standoff with Greece to disputed waters in the Mediterranean shows that he is daring the European Union to carry out a threat to impose sanctions, Washington Examiner columnist Tom Rogan said.

“It is obvious that Erdoğan is challenging the European Union to live up to its sanction threats,” Rogan said in an opinion piece on Monday.

Turkey’s decision to issue a NAVTEX on Sunday laying out plans to explore for hydrocarbons off the Greek island of Kastellorizo has reignited political tensions between Turkey and Greece despite both sides agreeing to exploratory talks in late September. No date has been set for the negotiations aimed at de-escalating a two-month standoff over Turkey’s activities in internationally recognised Greek and Cypriot maritime boundaries.

Turkey withdrew its navy-escorted Oruç Reis research vessel from the disputed waters last month to fulfil Greece’s pre-condition for the talks and avoid possible sanctions discussed at an emergency EU summit at the start of October. But the ship set sail from the southern port of Antalya towards Greek territory again on Monday. It was about 80 kilometres south of Kastellorizo at 9:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday, according to global shipping tracker

Rogan said Erdoğan’s motives for agreeing to exploratory talks were not “altruistic”.

“Erdoğan appears to have used the pretence of a diplomatic resolution to this crisis in order only to make Greece and the EU appear desperate for compromise and reciprocally weak,” he said.

The columnist said that the Turkish president saw the “public subjugation of his competitors as fuel to his legacy agenda” of building a “neo-Ottoman empire centred in Sunni Islamic populism”.

“Hated by Turkish nationalists, Greece presents unique appeal in this regard,” he said.

Erdoğan’s should not be allowed to succeed in his gambit, as it would open the doors for other actors, including Russia, to exploit the EU, Rogan said.

The columnist said that the 27-member bloc should “move expediently” to impose sanctions on Erdoğan and seek support from the United States, whose “key strategic interest in maintaining its alliance with Turkey” should not come “at the expense of European security”.

“Erdoğan must be sanctioned. If he escalates this situation further, the U.S. and EU should escalate right along with him,” Rogan said.