BRUSSELS – EU leaders decided on Friday to draw up a list of Turkish targets for sanctions in response to Ankara’s prospecting for gas in Greek and Cypriot waters.
“The council adopted sanctions in the face of Turkey’s ‘unilateral actions and provocations’,” French minister for European affairs Clement Beaune tweeted, citing the conclusions agreed by the bloc’s 27 leaders.
A diplomat told AFP the sanctions would target individuals and that further measures could be imposed “if Turkey pursues its actions”.
There will be disappointment in Athens that the leaders, meeting at a summit in Brussels, did not agree to seek an arms embargo or to target entire sector’s of Turkey’s economy.
But the conclusions, released by a European Council spokesman, called for a list to be drawn up of targets for “restrictive measures”.
The leaders mandated chief EU diplomat Josep Borrell to prepare a report on more measures that could be taken to “expand the scope” of the action, to be submitted by next March.
“The idea is to turn the vice progressively,” a diplomat said.
“Turkey has engaged in unilateral actions and provocations and escalated its rhetoric against the EU, EU Member States and European leaders,” the leaders said.
“Turkish unilateral and provocative activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are still taking place, including in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.”
On the eve of the EU summit, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the sanctions threat.
“Turkey does not care much about any sanctions decision to be made by the EU,” he said.
“The EU has never treated us honestly. The EU has never stood by any promise it has given us but we always remained patient and we are still patient.”
Greece, with French backing, has led the charge for tougher EU action against Turkey, which has repeatedly sent a gas drilling vessel into disputed waters.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the “credibility of the European Union” was at stake as he arrived at Thursday’s summit.
He noted that the leaders had already agreed in October that something must be done about Turkey’s increasingly assertive actions in his region.
“This is the moment to show whether we, as Europe, really are credible in what we have agreed,” he said.
Some members of the European Union and of NATO — the military alliance that includes both Greece and Turkey — have been more cautious.
Germany has led diplomatic outreach aimed at resolving the dispute, and NATO has set up a military hotline to head off accidental clashes.
– Difficult relationship –
Speaking just ahead of the summit, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg tried to soothe tempers.
He noted that Turkey was hosting around four million refugees, more than any other NATO ally, and that the country had suffered from terrorist attacks.
“There are differences, there are disagreements, we need to address them,” Stoltenberg said.
“At the same time, we need to make sure that we realise the importance of Turkey as part of NATO and also as part of the Western family.”
Turkey’s relationship with western allies has become increasingly strained in recent months.
The United States has been infuriated by Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, which is incompatible with NATO’s air defence grid.
Turkey has also been accused of breaching the UN arms embargo on Libya, where it is backing the Tripoli government in the civil war.
And Turkish support is seen as having encouraged Azerbaijan to resume a long-dormant conflict with Armenia.
French President Emmanuel Macron has engaged in an increasingly bitter and personal war of words with Erdogan, and has called for EU solidarity with Greece.