France and Germany accused Turkey on Thursday (15 October) of continuing to provoke the European Union with its actions in the eastern Mediterranean, and urged it to clarify its positions in the coming weeks.
Despite an EU summit deal on 2 October aimed at persuading Ankara to stop exploring for natural gas in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus, Turkey said on Wednesday it was restarting operations of a survey ship.
Turkey withdrew the vessel last month, just before the EU summit, at which economic sanctions were discussed, only to redeploy it on Monday.
The bloc said it would review the possibility of sanctions on Turkey at a European summit in December.
“It’s clear to us that Turkey is permanently carrying out provocative acts which are unacceptable,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference alongside his German and Polish counterparts. France, Germany and Poland have been holding meetings in a format called “the Weimar Trio”.
Déclaration conjointe des ministres des Affaires étrangères du Triangle de Weimar (France, Allemagne et Pologne) – Jean-Yves Le Drian, Heiko Maas, Zbigniew Rau (15.10.20) https://t.co/sIpJ8CeLUt
— Anna Cherner (@AnnaCherner) October 15, 2020
He said the ball was in Ankara’s court, but that the European Union was ready to change the balance of power if Turkey didn’t return to dialogue.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Turkey’s decision to send the vessel back to the Mediterranean was “inadmissible”.
Asked about the possibility of bringing forward EU sanctions, he said the bloc would to decide how to react in the coming weeks.
“It’s been twice that expected discussions have not taken place and we don’t know when they will happen,” he said. “We must wait to see if there is progress in the next weeks and then we’ll see what attitude needs to be adopted by the EU.”
Le Drian criticised Turkey’s role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where it supports Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenians.
“There will not be a military victory on this issue so the ceasefire must be implemented,” he said. “What we can see today is the only country which isn’t calling for respect of the ceasefire is Turkey and that’s damaging.”
Hungarian support for Turkey
In the meantime, EURACTIV has learned that in a move that raised eyebrows in Athens, the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has walked out from the discussion on Turkey at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday in Luxembourg.
Te Hungarian minister left suddenly when EU foreign ministers started the discussion over the return of Turkey’s research vessel Oruç Reis in contested waters.
He came back when the discussion was over and the issue was then for Nagorno-Karabakh, in which he openly backed Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey.
Diplomatic sources said that the move was not a coincidence given the close relations between Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Hungary is among the EU countries that oppose EU sanctions against Turkey. Along the same line are also Italy and Spain.