East Med Dispute: Erdogan Unmoved by EU Sanctions Threat
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused the European Union on Wednesday of never acting honestly towards his country and said Ankara was not concerned by any economic sanctions the bloc might impose on it.
EU foreign ministers said on Monday Turkey had failed to help end a row with Greece and Cyprus over potential gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, but they left a decision on sanctions for a summit of EU leaders that starts on Thursday.
NATO ally Turkey has been at odds with EU members Greece and Cyprus over the extent of their continental shelves in the east Mediterranean. Tensions flared in August when Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel to waters claimed by Greece.
"The EU has never acted honestly, it has never kept its promises (towards Turkey). But... we have always been patient. We are still being patient," Erdogan told reporters ahead of a visit to Azerbaijan.
"Any sanctions decision that can be taken against Turkey do not concern us much," Erdogan said, adding that Greece had "run" from negotiations with Turkey despite agreeing to resume talks over their conflicting maritime claims.
"On the eastern Mediterranean, we will continue to protect whatever our rights there are," he said. "It is never possible for us to compromise here. But if Greece really acts honestly as a neighbor, we will continue to be available at the table."
After withdrawing the Oruc Reis vessel for what it said was maintenance ahead of a previous EU summit in October, Ankara redeployed it shortly after, citing unsatisfactory results from the summit. It withdrew the vessel again last week.
The chair of EU summits, Charles Michel, has warned Turkey not to play "cat and mouse" by withdrawing ships before EU summits, only to redeploy them afterwards.
France, with support from the European Parliament, is leading the EU push for sanctions. On Monday Erdogan said Turkey would not "bow down to threats and blackmail", though he also repeated his call for dialogue.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ali Kucukgocmen and Gareth Jones)