As we underscored earlier the east Mediterranean gas dispute involving Turkey and Greece along with Cyprus is fast becoming militarized. Despite Turkey defending that its interpretation of maritime boundaries is fully “legitimate”, the European Union has prepared sanctions against Turkey.
“We can go to measures related to sectoral activities… where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy,” EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell threatened on Friday during a press conference.
“Turkey has to abstain from unilateral actions. This is a basic element to allow the dialogue to advance,” Borrell added.
He described punitive measures targeting Turkey’s ability to conduct hydrocarbon exploration in contested waters around Cyprus and near Greece’s outermost islands.
However, Borrell also emphasized the EU wouldn’t pull the trigger just yet, opting to give “a serious chance to dialogue” while pledging full political support to EU members Greece and Cyprus.
To be expected Ankara fired back that the dispute is beyond the EU’s scope or authority and that it has no business in Turkish affairs. “It is beyond the limits of the EU to criticise the hydrocarbon activities of our country within our own continental shelf and demand that we stop them,” Turkish government spokesman Hami Aksoy said.
Meanwhile, occurring simultaneous to EU sanctions deliberations at the end of this week, Turkish and Greek F-16 jets nearly exchanged fire off southwestern Cyprus in a ‘dogfight’ of sorts.
France and Italy have actually sent military frigates and fighter jets for Mediterranean war games with Greece this week. No doubt it’s all about a ‘show of force’ and European unity in the face of Turkey. Ankara has sent military escorts to accompany its hydrocarbon exploration vessels in the meantime.