EU leaders agree on limited sanctions over Turkish gas drilling

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European Union leaders agreed to penalize individuals and companies involved in planning and carrying out Turkish drilling in the eastern Mediterranean with bans on travel to the EU and asset freezes, according to a decision released early Friday morning by the EU leaders summit in Brussels, Deutsche Welle reported.

The EU sanctions list currently includes the vice president of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation and the deputy director of its exploration department. People and entities as of yet unspecified will be added to the list.

“Regrettably, Turkey has engaged in unilateral actions and provocations and escalated its rhetoric against the EU, EU member states and European leaders,” the leaders said in a statement from the summit.

However, Friday’s proposal backtracks from the broader sanctions which would have targeted larger sectors of Turkey’s economy that had been under consideration.

Turkey sent a gas exploration ship in August to survey the seabed in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece, triggering a diplomatic row with the EU. Since then, Brussels has been weighing its options for pressuring Turkey to cease gas exploration in the region.

Greece has pushed for a tougher EU response. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said ahead of the summit on Thursday that “the credibility of the European Union” was on the line and said EU leaders had promised consequences during the last summit in October if Turkey “continued its delinquent behavior.”

EU leaders agreed to postpone any harsher steps, instructing EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to compile a report on EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations to “expand the scope” of action by the next EU leaders summit in March 2021.

The EU has taken a carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with Turkey’s gas exploration. At the last EU leaders summit in October, EU leaders offered trade and customs benefits as part of a “positive political EU-Turkey agenda” if Ankara would halt its “illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean.

That offer will remain on the table if Ankara shows a willingness for dialogue and compromise, according to the leaders’ decision.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday that “any decision to impose sanctions on Turkey won’t be of great concern.”

Erdoğan said on Friday that “reasonable countries” in the European Union had thwarted efforts against Turkey this time and that the next meeting of EU leaders in March would not yield results that hurt Ankara.

“Our rights must be granted. There are now many rights that EU member states must grant Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers. “Reasonable countries in the EU thwarted this game by adopting a positive stance,” he added in reference to Greek, French and Cypriot demands to sanction Turkey.

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