EU to walk ‘fine line’ when dealing with Turkey on East Med disputes

The European Union (EU)’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the bloc will “walk a fine line” between seeking a dialogue and showing strength when dealing with Turkey on Eastern Mediterranean disputes.

Speaking at a press conference after an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Berlin, Borrell on Friday said that member states were determined in defending the bloc’s interests and solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in the matter, reports Xinhua news agency.

While claiming that the EU wants to give “dialogue a serious chance”, Borrell said Turkey “has to refrain from unilateral actions” and “this is a basic element to allow the dialogue to advance”.

“For this reason, we must walk a fine line between preserving a true space for dialogue and, at the same time, showing collective strength in the defence of our common interests,” he said.

Borrell noted that there are many pending issues in the relations between the EU and Turkey, but the priority is to solve the matter related to the Turkish drilling and exploration in disputed waters.

“I do not think that the other things are not important, but they are not so urgent,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was along with Borrel at the press conference, agreed that some of the matters are related to the international law and should be submitted to the International Court of Justice.

The heads of EU governments would discuss the relations with Turkey in the upcoming summit in September, Maas said, adding that restrictive measures would be prepared in case the talks with Turkey result in no progress.

“Turkey must create the prerequisites for diplomacy and abstain from provocations,” Maas said.

Borrell said preparation is ongoing for a list of individuals subject to restrictions over the “illegal drilling activities” in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the foreign ministers agreed to “speed up their work in order to add individuals suggested by Cyprus to the list.”

The dispute over Turkish natural gas explorations off Greek islands in the Eastern Mediterranean has escalated in recent weeks.

Greece considers the explorations illegal, while the Ankara government, on the other hand, believes the waters, in which natural gas is being drilled on a trial basis, belong to the Turkish continental shelf.

Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country will defend its right of hydrocarbon explorations in the Eastern Mediterranean and make “no concessions” in the ongoing disputes.

Turkey has sent an exploratory vessel Oruc Reis, which is carrying out seismic research escorted by warships in the region.