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Turkey urges EU to be 'impartial' in Mediterranean row

September 7, 2020

Turkey's Erdogan has called on the European Union to take a neutral stance in Ankara's growing row with Greece. Relations between Ankara and Athens have been strained over energy prospecting in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish President Erdogan speaking during a meeting of his ruling AK party in Ankara
Image: Reuters/Presidential Press Office

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called on the European Union to take an "impartial" position in the eastern Mediterranean where his country is locked in an escalating dispute with Greece.

He told European Council President Charles Michel in a phone call that the bloc's approach would be a test of its sincerity for international law and regional peace, Erdogan's office said in a statement.

The Turkish leader "invited EU institutions and member states to be fair, impartial and objective and to act responsibly on regional issues, particularly the eastern Mediterranean," according to the statement.

Turkey has been engaged in a row with Greece, an EU member, over natural gas exploration in the sea's disputed waters, with concerns about a potential military conflict between the two NATO allies running high.

Michel, in turn, stressed on the importance of deescalating tension, urging Ankara to cease activities in the region that fuel tensions with Athens, an EU official said.

Read moreTurkey's Black Sea gas 'miracle' won't solve economic woes

The dispute is set to top the agenda at the European Council meeting scheduled for September 24-25. Some member states have called for a hardline approach, including sanctions against Turkey, while France had sent frigates and fighter jets to the region in support of Greece.

Erdogan on Sunday said provocative statements and actions from some European politicians will not help achieve a solution, according to the Turkish presidency.

Michel told Erdogan that "all measures (sticks and carrots) will be considered" at this month's meeting, the EU official said.

Turkey vs Greece: Is Erdogan willing to risk war?

The Mediterranean dispute

Turkey last month sent an exploration vessel to the waters between Greece and Cyprus, prompting Athens to stage naval exercises to defend its maritime territory.

Earlier this week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Greece and Turkey had agreed to start "technical talks" to avoid accidental military clashes in the region. But Athens denied that such talks were planned.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the following day that his country would start talks with Turkey once Turkish "provocations" in the eastern Mediterranean ceased.

Read moreOpinion: Greece and Turkey have to sacrifice to find real compromise

The Turkish president raised the stakes by threatening Greece on Saturday. "They're either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences," he said.

"As Turkey and the Turkish people, we are ready for every possibility and every consequence," Erdogan said.

Turkey's armed forces also began their annual five-day joint exercise called "Mediterranean Storm" in the breakaway republic of Northern Cyprus.

"The security priorities of our country and the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) are indispensable," Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter.

adi/sri (AFP, Reuters)