EU could impose sanctions on Turkey amid offshore energy rights dispute

The European Union was preparing sanctions against Turkey that could be discussed at the next EU summit on September 24th in response to an energy rights dispute with Greece and Cyprus, according to EU diplomat Josep Borrell.

Speaking on Friday in Berlin, Borrell said the EU was ready to sanction Turkish vessels, block their access to EU ports and cut off supplies, adding that the measures, meant to limit Turkey’s ability to explore for natural gas in contested waters, could affect individuals, ships or the use of European ports. The EU would focus on everything related to “activities we consider illegal,” he said.

EU foreign ministers met on Friday to discuss support for Greece after it ratified a pact on its maritime boundaries to counter Turkey’s claims to energy resources in the region.

On Thursday Turkey’s Defence Ministry said Turkish F-16 jets prevented six Greek F-16 jets which took off from the island of Crete from entering an area where Ankara is conducting maritime activity, Turkey claimed. Greek media reported that Turkish fighter aircraft had harassed Greek jets which were returning to base on Crete. 

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Borrell said that “we can go to measures related to sectoral activities … where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy”.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the EU had no basis for its stance. It rejected Greek maritime claims. President Tayyip Erdogan told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Turkey would continue to protect its rights and interests everywhere.

“Our President told him NATO must fulfil its responsibility against unilateral steps which disregard international law and harm regional peace,” Erdogan’s office said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that its hawkish stance on the matter was to set red lines because Ankara respected “actions not words”.

Germany has taken a less aggressive stance on the matter. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, agreeing with Birrell, said that the EU first wanted to enter into a dialogue, which would allow current tensions the time to cool.

Two senior EU diplomats told Reuters that foreign ministers agreed to leave any decision to EU government leaders, who are set to meet for a two-day summit from September 24th.