Turkey slams EU threat of sanctions over East Med dispute

Turkey has rejected the European’s Union’s threat of sanctions over its energy exploration activities in the contentious Eastern Mediterranean.

EU leaders warned early on Friday they could sanction Turkey if it failed to stop what the bloc views as illegal drilling and research in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece.

“The continued use of the language of sanctions is unconstructive,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday. “The EU must now understand it will get nowhere with such discourse.”

Conflict over the resource-abundant seabed was averted after Ankara and Athens last month agreed to hold exploratory talks.

The neighbours, both NATO-members, staged rival war games in the disputed waters and ramped up their rhetoric in August, prompting Greece and Cyprus to demand a robust EU response.

The EU summit statement offered Turkey the prospect of closer ties and better trade if Ankara commits to “pursuing dialogue in good faith and abstaining from unilateral actions”.

While the Turkish ministry welcomed these “positive elements”, it said “some parts were disconnected from reality”.

The EU statement demonstrated how some countries “wanted to develop relations” with Turkey, but was also an example of how Greece and Cyprus had “taken EU-Turkey relations hostage”, the ministry said.

Berkay Mandiraci, a Turkey analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the EU statement was “the best Ankara could have hoped for”.

Turkey also called on the EU to encourage dialogue between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots in the island’s northern third to set up a mechanism to coordinate hydrocarbon activities.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup in Nicosia seeking to unite the whole island with Greece.

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