Turkey may resume talks with Greece, warns against EU sanctions

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has had talks with EU Council president Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking to ease the crisis. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2020

Turkey may resume talks with Greece, warns against EU sanctions

  • Countries locked in a bitter dispute over the extent of their continental shelves in the eastern Mediterranean
  • Tensions flared last month when Turkey sent a vessel to survey for gas and oil in contested waters

ISTANBUL: Turkey and Greece could soon resume talks over their contested Mediterranean claims but European Union leaders meeting this week will not help if they threaten sanctions, Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday.
The NATO members and neighbors have been locked in a bitter dispute over the extent of their continental shelves in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month when Turkey sent a vessel to survey for gas and oil in contested waters.
European Union member Greece condemned the move as illegal and pressed, along with Cyprus, for a strong response from EU leaders when they meet on Thursday.
Ankara withdrew the Oruc Reis vessel last week. It described the move as a routine maintenance stop but later said it opened up the chance for diplomacy to reduce tensions with Athens.
“At this point, the climate has become much more suitable for negotiations to begin,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Dogan News Agency.” “… Exploratory talks may start again.”
Last month Greece and Turkey were on the verge of resuming those “exploratory” talks, suspended in 2016. But Turkey broke off contact and sent Oruc Reis into disputed waters after Greece signed a maritime demarcation deal with Egypt, angering Ankara.
Erdogan has had talks with EU Council president Charles Michel, who chairs the meetings of EU leaders, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking to ease the crisis.
But Cyprus, protesting the presence of two Turkish exploration vessels in waters off the divided island, insists on sanctions against Ankara and has blocked EU action against Belarus for alleged election fraud until its demands are met.
“Threats of blackmail and of sanctions against Turkey does not give results,” Kalin said. “European politicians should know this by now.”
Erdogan tweeted at the weekend that Turkey believed the dispute could be resolved through dialogue while still defending its rights in the region.
“We want to give diplomacy as much space as possible, by listening to every sincere call,” he tweeted. “With this vision, we will continue to defend any drop of water and area of our country to the end.”


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 27 min 38 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.