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9 Dec, 2020 16:55

Turkey’s Erdogan brushes off threats of EU sanctions, says Brussels ‘never honest’ with Ankara

Turkey’s Erdogan brushes off threats of EU sanctions, says Brussels ‘never honest’ with Ankara

Any potential economic sanctions the EU might impose on Turkey do not concern the country much, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, accusing the bloc of never acting “honestly” towards Ankara.

Speaking ahead of an EU leaders’ summit scheduled for Thursday, Erdogan said Ankara is not intimidated by threats of sanctions. At the same time, he signaled that Turkey was ready for negotiations in its spat with Greece over oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean – but shifted blame for lack of progress onto Athens.

“Any sanctions decisions that can be taken against Turkey do not concern us much,” Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday, adding that Greece has “run” away from negotiations. 

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“On the Eastern Mediterranean, we will continue to protect whatever our rights there are,” he said. “It is never possible for us to compromise here. But if Greece really acts honestly as a neighbor, we will continue to be available at the table.”

Tensions between Turkey and the EU have soared in recent months over Ankara’s activities in Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara has been engaged in exploration of oil and gas resources in waters which are also claimed by Greece and Cyprus. 

Still, ahead of the upcoming EU summit, it recalled its survey ship ‘Oruc Reis’ from the troubled waters. Ankara made a similar move before the previous EU summit in October, recalling the vessel for “maintenance” only to re-deploy it immediately after the event.

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The trick has apparently flopped already, as the chair of EU summits, Charles Michel, urged Ankara to stop playing “cat and mouse,” signaling that the withdrawal was not fooling anyone. 

Erdogan blamed the bloc for what he said was a lack of honesty with Turkey, apparently referencing the long-stalled process of integrating Turkey into the EU. 

The EU has never acted honestly, it has never kept its promises. But... we have always been patient. We are still being patient.

Full-fledged EU membership was the centerpiece of Erdogan’s foreign policy in the early 2000s, but no real progress has been made since. Turkey has failed to meet the overwhelming majority of the EU’s requirements, particularly in the field of human rights and rule of law. As relations between Ankara and the bloc gradually worsened, some EU officials have even called for an official suspension of membership talks.

Erdogan still has his eye on membership, however. He recently reiterated Turkey’s desire to become a full member of the EU, insisting that the country sees itself as an “inseparable part” of Europe. Such soothing rhetoric, however, is unlikely to work, as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell explicitly warned Ankara last month that its behavior has been only “widening its separation” from the bloc.

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