Tsipras calls for dual EU approach to Turkey to ensure sustainable dialogue

The leftist politician from Syriza party (GUE-NGL) held a telephone conversation on Sunday (31 January) with the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, who agreed with Tsipras initiative to release patents of COVID-19 vaccines to scale up production. [Photo by Sarantis Michalopoulos]

Europe needs to adopt a robust mechanism of sanctions on Turkey but at the same time push forward a tempting positive agenda in case Ankara decides to follow the path of logic, the former Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, said in a letter to EU socialist leaders.

Ahead of a crucial summit today (1 October) on the future of EU-Turkey relations, the leftist leader of the main opposition Syriza party outlined his proposal in a letter sent to his colleagues from the European socialist party.

EU officials said on the eve of the summit that the EU leaders are not going to approve sanctions or any mechanism of automatic sanctions that would be activated in case Ankara escalates again.

Brussels wants to push for a dialogue between the two countries, which, according to some, might be launched as early as after today’s summit.

EU leaders meet to break stalemate over Belarus and Turkey

EU leaders meet physically for an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Thursday (1 October) in an attempt to break the deadlock over imposing sanctions on Belarus and resolving a standoff with Turkey, both crucial for the EU’s credibility on the international scene.

New terms

According to the letter, seen by EURACTIV, a Greek-Turkish dialogue can only be sustainable if it is firmly based on the revitalisation of the EU-Turkey exploratory talks on the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone/continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean, under new terms.

The former Greek leader said these new terms should not result in the cancellation of the already “frozen” Turkey’s EU accession path, a proposal championed mainly by Austria.

However, they should include a robust mechanism for the imposition of an array of sanctions if Turkey continues to violate the sovereign rights of EU countries.

Conversely, he said, if Ankara ends its unilateral actions in the region, a concrete positive agenda should be provided, involving customs union modernisation, economic cooperation, implementation and updating of the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement.

“Let us not forget that it was the positive EU-Turkey agenda during that period, that gave momentum to the Cyprus talks, while it was the collapse of this agenda after the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey that contributed greatly to the failure of these talks.”

For Tsipras, it would be a “grave mistake” for the EU to consider that the resumption of a fragile Greek-Turkish dialogue alone, particularly under the constant threat of the return of Turkish warships, is a sustainable basis for resolving this crisis.

Turkey has removed its warships and vessels from Greek waters and this was considered as a positive sign in Brussels for restarting dialogue between the two countries.

But in the case of Cyprus, EU officials admit that it is still problematic, considering that Turkish vessels and warships are still in its Exclusive Economic Zone.

“It is clear that the return of the Turkish exploration vessel and warships to port and the announcement of the restart of exploratory talks, following intensive efforts by the German Presidency, is a positive step and an important opportunity for promoting dialogue, that should not be missed,” the letter reads.

“It is more important than ever to show the world that the EU is assertive and decisive in protecting its member states and values, as well as forward-looking enough to engage actively with an important partner in resolving the global and regional challenges of our times,” Tsipras concluded.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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