Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the European Union of never acting honestly towards his country and said Ankara was not concerned by any economic sanctions the bloc might impose on it.
His comments on Wednesday came on the eve of an EU summit in which sanctions against Ankara will be considered.
EU foreign ministers said on Monday that Turkey had failed to help end a row with Greece and Cyprus over potential gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, but they left a decision on sanctions for their Thursday meeting.
NATO member Turkey has been at odds with EU members Greece and Cyprus over the extent of their continental shelves in the east Mediterranean.
Tensions flared in August when Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel to waters claimed by Greece.
“The EU has never acted honestly, it has never kept its promises [towards Turkey]. But … we have always been patient. We are still being patient,” Erdogan told reporters ahead of a visit to Azerbaijan.
“Any sanctions decision that can be taken against Turkey do not concern us much,” Erdogan said, adding that Greece had “run” from negotiations with Turkey despite agreeing to resume talks over their conflicting maritime claims.
“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 neighbour, we will continue to be available at the table.”
After withdrawing the Oruc Reis vessel for what it said was maintenance ahead of a previous EU summit in October, Ankara redeployed it shortly afterwards, citing unsatisfactory results from the summit. It withdrew the vessel again last week.
European Council President Charles Michel has warned Turkey not to play “cat and mouse” by withdrawing ships before EU summits, only to redeploy them afterwards.
France, with support from the European Parliament, is leading the EU push for sanctions. On Monday, Erdogan said Turkey would not “bow down to threats and blackmail”, though he also repeated his call for dialogue.
EU to toughen sanctions on Turkish drilling: draft statement
Reuters reported on Thursday that if agreed, the EU will “prepare additional listings” on the basis of a sanctions list already in place since 2019, and “if need be, work on the extension” of its scope, according to the draft statement seen by the news agency.
The EU created a sanctions programme last year to punish unauthorised exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, freezing assets of people and companies accused of planning or participating in activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone or on its continental shelf.
So far, only senior officials of Turkey’s state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation have been put on the sanctions list, but Cyprus proposed a list of more names earlier this year.
Negotiations over the two-page statement are still ongoing and Greece and Cyprus, which accuse Turkey of drilling for hydrocarbons off its continental shelf, believe the sanctions do not go far enough.
“We welcome additional listings,” a Cypriot diplomat said, according to Reuters. “We would like to see preparations for targeted sectoral measures at a later stage, in February or March, should Turkey’s behaviour not change.”