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Turkey urges EU to be 'impartial' in eastern Mediterranean row

Turkey Urges EU to Be ‘Impartial’ in an Eastern Mediterranean Row

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called on the EU to be “even-handed” in the growing dispute over energy prospecting in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean, his office said.
In a phone call with Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, in turn, underlined the importance of defusing the conflict and called on Turkey to refrain from activities which fuel tensions with rival Greece, said an EU official after the talks.
Turkey’s hunt for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by EU member Greece has incredibly strained relations between the two NATO members and pitted Ankara against the EU bloc.
Escalating conflict is expected to be high on the list at a European Council meeting on September 24-25, with some member states pushing for sanctions against Turkey.
During the call with Michel, the Turkish leader “called on EU institutions and member states to be fair, impartial objective and to act responsibly on regional issues, in particular, the eastern Mediterranean”, said the Presidency.
Last month, Turkey deployed its exploration vessel, Orus Reis, in the waters between Greece and Cyprus, prompting Athens to hold naval exercises to defend its maritime territory.
Erdogan raised the issues on Saturday and warned Greece: “They will either understand the language of politics and diplomacy or on the ground through bitter experiences.”
European Union diplomatic chief Josep Borrell has proposed sanctions against Ankara at the next meeting. Still, so far France, which has sent frigates and fighter jets to the region to support Greece, was not able to persuade other EU countries to join in its harsh response.
Michel told Erdogan that “all measures [sticks and carrots] will be reviewed” at this month’s meeting, according to the EU official.
On the other hand, Erdogan said the EU’s approach to the issue would be “a test of sincerity” for international law and regional peace, adding that provocative measures taken by some European politicians would not promote a solution, according to the Turkish Presidency.
As tension was high, the Turkish armed forces began annual exercises known as the “Mediterranean storm” in the breakaway republic of northern Cyprus – an entity recognized only by Ankara on Sunday.
“The security priorities of our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) are indispensable,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter.
Turkey’s defense ministry also said the exercises, which are expected to last until Thursday, have continued “successfully”.
Cyprus is divided between southern Greek Cypriot – an EU member state – and northern Turkish Cypriot.
Turkey has stationed tens of thousands of troops in the north of the island since its 1974 invasion, which followed a coup staged by military leaders in Athens.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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