Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes “a win-win formula” can be found in a row with Greece over undersea resources, as the European Union mulls sanctions ahead of a key summit.
NATO members Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over maritime territory in the Eastern Mediterranean, believed to be rich in energy resources including natural gas.
Turkey has enraged Greece by sending a survey ship and navy vessels to the disputed waters, prompting Athens to push its EU allies for tougher sanctions at Thursday’s summit of EU leaders.
“I am calling on all neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean, especially Greece, not to see this issue as a zero-sum game,” Erdogan said on Monday.
“I believe a win-win formula that observes everyone’s rights could be found.”
Turkey will not bow to threats and blackmailing over the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan said, adding that any plans or maps excluding Ankara from its rights in the region were unacceptable.
European foreign ministers are expected to discuss measures against Turkey at their meeting on Monday before the coming summit.
“Germany has worked hard to facilitate a dialogue between the European Union and Turkey over the past months,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.
“But there have been too many provocations, and tensions between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece have prevented any direct talks.
“For this reason, we will talk about what consequences we should draw – also with a view to the EU summit this week.”
In his remarks, Erdogan reiterated a call to gather “all the actors around the table” including northern Cyprus, which is recognised as a country only by Turkey.
Greece insists Turkey – a candidate country to join the EU – must halt its exploration before negotiations can begin.
But not all EU members are convinced by sanctions, with some fearing that an escalating standoff could see Erdogan’s government once again allow asylum seekers to leave Turkey and cross into the bloc.
European Council chief Charles Michel, who will host Thursday’s summit, last week expressed Europe’s frustration.
“I think that the cat and mouse game needs to end,” Michel said, referring to Turkey’s repeated moves into disputed waters.
“We will have a debate at the European summit on December 10 and we are ready to use the means at our disposal,” he said.
France is leading the push in the EU to sanction Turkey.
Tensions flared in August when Ankara sent a survey vessel, the Oruc Reis, to map out energy drilling prospects in waters also claimed by Greece. Ankara and Athens agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims in September, ending a four-year hiatus.
However, Greece has since said it would not begin talks as long as Turkish vessels were in contested waters. Turkey has extended the duration of the vessels’ exploration multiple times since August.
Last month, however, Turkey pulled the Oruc Reis back to port, just as it did before a previous EU summit in October.
Meanwhile, The EU’s Parliament has called for sanctions against Turkey over a visit by Erdogan to northern Cyprus and over the Turkish operations in the eastern Mediterranean, which it called illegal.