The European Council condemned Turkey for its “unilateral and provocative actions” in the East Mediterranean on Friday, in the conclusion of the two-day meeting it held in Brussels.
“The European Council reaffirms its conclusions of 1-2 October 2020 and deplores renewed unilateral and provocative actions by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, including recent exploratory activities,” the concluding statement said. It also said it “urges respect for UN Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789, underlines the importance of the status of Varosha and reiterates its full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus.”
The Council also urged Turkey to “reverse these actions and work for the easing of tensions in a consistent and sustained manner.” It said it will “remain seized of the matter in order to follow-up on its conclusions of 1-2 October 2020.”
Countries who had hoped for Turkey to respect international laws of the sea following the end of the previous EU Summit on 1-2 October “unpleasantly surprised by Turkey’s most recent attitude and the resumption of Oruc Reis’ maritime activity,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday, at a press conference in Brussels after the end of the two-day EU Summit.
Mr Mitsotakis expressed hope that EU-Turkey relations will not reach a point where sanctions against Turkey will be necessary, but he warned that the “EU does have the decisiveness necessary to proceed with taking measures against Turkey that could be severe.”
Regarding the last-minute inclusion of the Turkish issue on the EU Summit’s agenda, he said that “Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and I insisted and demanded a clear reference to indicate the EU’s strong disapproval of Turkey’s unilateral actions. The country leaders finally agreed to this. There is a clear reference urging Turkey to respect UN Security Council resolutions and calling on Turkey to reverse these actions, adding that it will monitor the developments.”
“When we discussed the issue of Turkey in detail at the last EU Summit, we had to cover a long distance to explain it to the Europeans. The conclusions that were reaffirmed today in paragraph 21 state clearly a time frame in which Turkey’s behavior will be evaluated in December.”
Asked by reporters if December is a reasonable deadline for an EU decision on Turkey, he said that reaching any conclusions requires a unanimous consensus as opposed to a majority position. He observed that Greece’s diplomatic maneuvering was “a struggle in and of itself” to achieve the EU’s current approach on the matter.
“Greece is defending its national sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he then said in response to whether Greece’s red line is the 6 or 12 nautical miles regarding Oruc Reis’ maritime activity in the Aegean Sea. He explained that Greece has already announced a decision to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from 6 to 12 miles,” and it has also “completed agreements with Italy and Egypt for the definition of maritime zones where the country exercises sovereign rights.”
Mr Mitsotakis also said that he raised the issue of preparation for the next spring and summer tourist period, noting that “we all hope that we will have the vaccine in the spring but we should be ready to travel with safety and common protocols”. The Greek PM also revealed that inoculations against the flu was one of the first European countries to purchase the fast-results test, which provide outcomes within half an hour instead of one or two days.
Speaking about the effect of the pandemic on the economies of the EU, he said that it was “imperative to not delay the implementation schedule of the EU Recovery Fund.” Discussion on ratifying the decisions reached in July should wrap up soon, he said, because further delays and worsening of economics will lead to a deeper recession in 2020.