EU ready to sanction Turkey over ‘permanent provocations’ – French FM

The European Council will consider initiating sanctions against Turkey in December unless the country respects the integrity of EU member states, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a press event following a meeting of the French-German-Polish Weimar Triangle, Associated Press reported on Thursday.

“We are forced to note that there are permanent acts of provocation on the part of Turkey which are not bearable,” Le Drian said, “and therefore we really wish that Turkey clarifies its positions and returns to a spirit of dialogue.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also called Turkey’s actions a “provocation,” and said he understood Greece’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue with Turkey, after Turkey decided to dispatch the seismic exploration vessel Oruç Reis again in the Eastern Mediterranean, following months of escalated tensions over territorial and maritime rights in the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to “give Greece the answer it deserves on the field,” as the Oruç Reis returned to its area of operation near the Greek island of Kastellorizo on Wednesday.

The already agreed process of dialogue not taking place “is more than annoying, including for us in our role as intermediary,” Maas said. Germany has been working to get Turkey and Greece to sit down for negotiations.

Germany hopes there will be progress next week, AP cited Maas as saying. If there isn’t any progress, the EU “will have to face the question of how to deal with this,” the minister continued.

A government source had told Reuters on Wednesday that sanctions were unlikely, but the summit and developments in the Aegean may change Germany’s mind.

Despite having agreed to mediation and dialogue before, Greece and Turkey have accused each other of provocations, and both have scheduled military exercises in the Aegean Sea – with the former on Oct. 29, the day the Turkish republic was proclaimed by the national assembly, and the latter in retaliation on Oct. 28, Greece’s day of independence.

Greece also accused Turkey of deliberately refusing Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias entry into Turkish airspace on Wednesday, to which the Turkish Foreign Ministry responded by saying the 20 minute delay was caused by an oversight by Iraq, not Turkey.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas called the incident another provocation.

Maas said he continued to believe the conflict could be solved “through dialogue and not with naval ships.”

“Turkey remains consistent in its provocative and aggressive beahviour,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday, adding that Turkey’s actions would be discussed at the EU summit in Brussels on Friday.

Mitsotakis said he was planning to brief EU leaders on Turkey reopening the Cypriot town of Varosha, which happened last week after remaining abandoned since 1974. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the reopening an “illegal action” that violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.