EU Vows to Expand Turkey Sanctions List in Measured Warning

The European Union pledged to expand a list of Turks targeted with travel bans and asset freezes over controversial energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean while stopping short of moving toward more economically painful sanctions against the government in Ankara.

EU leaders gave the go-ahead in Brussels for work on enlarging a blacklist now composed of two employees of Turkish Petroleum Corp. in response to Turkey’s natural-gas hunt off Cyprus. This may lead to more individuals being targeted, and - potentially - the inclusion of some companies and governmental organizations.

The 27-nation bloc’s government heads resisted Greek-led demands to start drafting tougher penalties such as a ban on transactions between European institutions and Turkish businesses. Instead, they held out the possibility of weighing more punitive measures by March should Ankara continue its confrontational acts in the eastern Mediterranean.

“The EU remains committed to defending its interests and those of its member states as well as to upholding regional stability,” the leaders said in a joint statement released early on Friday morning in the Belgian capital.

The EU wants to make Ankara pay a price for its drilling in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece. At the same time, the bloc hopes to prod Turkey into de-escalation and avoid triggering a rupture in relations with a major trading partner and a key ally in the fight against illegal migration into Europe from the Middle East.

EU Vows to Expand Turkey Sanctions List in Measured Warning

The European summit outcome marks a hard-fought compromise between a group of EU countries including Greece, Cyprus and France that want to pursue a harder line against Turkey and a Germany-led faction keen to tread more carefully.

The EU doves were handed an extra argument for delaying any immediate move toward broader penalties by the victory in the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election of Joe Biden. European capitals want to work closely with him on a range of issues including Turkey after four tension-filled years with outgoing President Donald Trump.

“The EU will seek to coordinate on matters relating to Turkey and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean with the United States,” the bloc’s leaders said in their statement.

Ankara is at loggerheads with Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders. Competing claims to sovereignty over waters rich in hydrocarbon reserves led to a naval standoff between Greece and Turkey earlier this year, while an agreement in principle to enter into a dialog has so far failed to materialize. The Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus since 1974 has been a further source of tensions.

Greece maintains that islands must be taken into account in delineating a country’s continental shelf, in line with the United Nations Law of the Sea, which Turkey hasn’t signed. Ankara argues that a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its mainland, and that the area south of Kastellorizo -- just a few kilometers off Turkey’s southern coast -- falls within its exclusive economic zone.

“I hope there are no new provocations so that the environment can be created to restart exploratory contacts,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after the leaders’ meeting. “This depends primarily on Turkey. Greece is always ready for discussions the moment the tension in the field falls.”

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