ANKARA: Faced with the prospect of sanctions from both the US and the EU, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that economic penalties would be detrimental to all sides and that Turkey’s disputes with its allies can be resolved through dialogue and cooperation.
Erdogan’s comments came hours after the EU gave the green light for the expansion of sanctions against Turkey over its exploration of gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Brussels after the EU summit said Europe “remains obviously always open to dialogue but won’t accept a policy destabilizing its member states as well as its regional environment.”
Turkey only recently withdrew its Oruc Reis survey vessel back to port in order not to anger Brussels too much before the summit — a move that was ridiculed by the European Council President Charles Michel as the “game of cat and mouse.”
Last year, the EU prepared a sanctions program to punish “illegal” exploration activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, including the freezing of assets of the people and companies involved. So far, only two senior officials of Turkey’s state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation have been put on the sanctions list, despite an expectation that more people will be added to it.
Some sanctions in the past — such as the threat of freezing accession talks — have only pushed Ankara to play the refugee card as a bargaining chip, where it threatens to open the gates for letting refugees into European countries.
For Karol Wasilewski, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Polish Institute of International Affairs, the EU decision was totally expected.
“On one hand, the EU had to do something because its credibility was at stake as during the last few months Turkey did not do anything to appease European decision-makers. On the other, with the election of Joe Biden to the US administration there is a greater chance for a transatlantic approach toward Turkey which may be more effective,” he told Arab News.
In the meantime, another sanctions package is coming from the US. Washington is preparing to execute its long-speculated sanctions against Turkey over its acquisition last year of the Russian S-400 air defense system, Reuters reported.
According to Max Hoffman, a Turkey analyst from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, at first glance it seems like a response calibrated to convey to Ankara that the US takes this issue very seriously and is willing to go further.
“But Washington would much prefer for Erdogan to reconsider and both sides to avoid an escalatory spiral for the moment,” he told Arab News.