Turkey to retaliate to new EU sanctions over Mediterranean, says foreign minister

Turkey will be forced to respond to new sanctions by the European Union over developments in the east Mediterranean, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday.

Taking steps against Ankara will not work to resolve existing regional problems, but only deepen them, Çavuşoğlu said during a press conference with EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell in Ankara.

The Turkish foreign minister’s comments arrive ahead of a meeting called by France with 27 members of the bloc focusing on problems with Ankara.

If the EU further sanctions Turkey, Ankara will “also have steps to take in the field,” T24 news site quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.

In November, the European Council adopted a framework for restrictive measures in response to Turkey's unauthorised drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara has said the measures will not deter it from drilling in the region.

The EU, along with Athens and Nicosia, objects to Turkey’s claims over drilling rights off the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where Turkey currently has two drilling ships and one surveying vessel accompanied by its navy.

Çavuşoğlu accused France and Cyprus of blocking reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Brussels.

“Don’t allow these two countries to take the EU hostage,” Çavuşoğlu said. “This is not good for the EU.”

French has signalled further sanctions against Ankara in the context of ongoing disputes in the eastern Mediterranean and war-torn Libya.

Last month, France accused Turkey of harassing one of its vessels taking part in a NATO mission in the Mediterranean, a claim Ankara refutes. 

Turkey has proven that France was not truthful in its vessel harassment claim in the Eastern Mediterranean and the country owes Turkey an apology, Çavusoğlu said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also accused Turkey of playing a dangerous game in war-torn Libya, saying it will not tolerate Ankara's military intervention in the oil rich North African country, where Turkey and France back opposing sides.

The Turkish foreign minister also criticised the bloc for excluding Turkey from a list of safe travel countries during the coronavirus pandemic, to which Borrell responded by saying objective criteria was used in compiling the list and that it would be subject to bi-weekly renewal.