Turkey’s escalating conflict with Greece and Cyprus will be the main subject at this month’s European Council meeting, when sanctions will be considered against Ankara, France said on Sunday (6 September).
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he and his counterparts in other EU countries had already discussed “the range of reprisals we could take with regards to Turkey”.
Turkey embarked on a military-backed hydrocarbon exploration venture in waters between Greece and Cyprus on 10 August, ratcheting up tensions in a strategic corridor of the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece responded with naval exercises to defend its maritime territory, which were later bolstered by the deployment of French frigates and fighter jets.
The dispute between NATO members has underscored the rising geopolitical risks in the area as Turkey pursues more aggressively nationalist policies under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The EU’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell has also raised the possibility of sanctions against Ankara but so far Paris has been unable to persuade other EU nations to join its hardline response.
EU foreign ministers agreed in their informal meeting in Berlin in the end of August on a list of sanctions against Turkey in the event that Ankara does not de-escalate its actions in the increasingly tense Eastern Mediterranean, including illegal drilling for oil and gas.
A first phase would concern Turkey’s energy sector, i.e. companies involved in the illegal drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean in the exclusive economic zones of Greece and Cyprus.
Le Drian urged Erdogan to begin talks over its Eastern Mediterranean ambitions between now and the European Council meeting.
“It’s up to the Turks to show that this matter… can be discussed,” he told France Inter radio. “If so, we can create a virtuous circle for all the problems on the table.”
While he declined to specify the type of sanctions Ankara could face, he said there was an “entire series of measures”.
“We are not short of options, and he knows that,” said Le Drian referring to Erdogan.
The European Council meeting is set to meet on September 24 and 25.