European Parliament to debate escalating tensions with Turkey

The European Parliament will examine escalating tensions between Turkey and some members of the European Union and NATO over hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and Ankara's interventions in Libya's civil war, Politico reported on Thursday.

The debate - entitled “Stability and security in the Mediterranean and the negative role of Turkey" - will be held next Thursday at the request of the parliament’s largest and most influential political group, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) – which includes Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Politico reported.

Members of the European Parliament will scrutinise two confrontations in the Mediterranean on June 10, when a Greek naval vessel participating in EU's Operation IRINI and a French naval ship taking part in NATO's Sea Guardian mission were allegedly prevented by the Turkish navy from inspecting a cargo ship previously suspected of carrying arms to Libya in contravention of a United Nations arms embargo. 

Turkey has denied any wrongdoing and has refuted France's account of the incident, which NATO has been investigating, Politico said.

“The issue of Turkey is not bilateral, it is European," Vangelis Meimarakis, a Greek MEP, said. 

French President Emmanuel Macron last week accused Turkey of "criminal activity" over its military intervention in the Libyan civil war.

Turkey is backing the U.N.-recognised, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in its fight against rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is backed by Russia, Egypt, and France, among others.

"Turkey’s behaviour, which aims at creating regional turmoil, must be dealt with on the European level in a unified, coordinated and direct manner," Meimarakis said.

EU leaders have also complained repeatedly about the expansion of Turkish oil and gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean in areas that Cyprus and Greece consider to part of an exclusive economic zone, but in which Turkey insists it has a right to explore. 

"The borders of Greece, whether land, sea or air, are the borders of Europe," Meimarakis said. 

"The exclusive economic zone delineation between an EU member state and a third country is a matter of major concern for the EU. The aggressive behaviour of the (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan government towards the European Union disregards the principles of international law, as well as the principles and values of Europe."

The Socialists, the second-largest group in the European Parliament, said they were also keen to examine the issue, according to Politico. 

“It is an important and sensitive debate,” Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialist and Democrats group, was quoted as saying by Politico. 

“We must confront the destabilisation of the area, and Turkey’s role…I believe Turkey is part of that instability in the area, it worries us, and the country should act with much more responsibility because they have an important role in making that area more stable.”