ANKARA – The Turkish foreign minister on Monday called on the European Union to be an “honest broker” in disputes between Ankara and EU member states France, Greece and Cyprus.
Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey would be forced to “reciprocate” against any decisions the bloc takes against the country.
In a joint news conference with visiting EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, Cavusoglu also renewed a call for France to apologize for its depiction of a standoff between Turkish and French ships in the Mediterranean Sea. France suspended its involvement in a NATO naval operation over the incident.
Borrell arrived in Turkey for talks at a time when tensions between Europe and Turkey are running high over a slew of issues, including Ankara’s disputes with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean region. The EU might take up punitive measures against Turkey at an upcoming meeting.
“We want to work with the EU,” Cavusoglu said, but added: “If the EU takes additional decisions against Turkey, we will be forced to reciprocate. The situation will become more tense, and this will serve no one.”
Cavusoglu said: “Our expectation is for the EU not to be a party to the problem but to be a part of the solution. If it approaches the issues as an honest broker rather than in solidarity (with EU) members in the eastern Mediterranean or on the issue of Cyprus, then it will contribute to a solution.”
He was referring to the dispute over drilling for oil and gas in waters off Cyprus. Turkey dispatched warship-escorted vessels to drill for gas in an area where Cyprus insists it has exclusive rights; the Turkish government has said it's acting to protect its interests in the area's natural resources and those of Turkish Cypriots.
The Greek Cypriot government of the ethnically split island has slammed Turkey for encroaching in its waters and economic rights. The EU has rallied to the defense of its member states, Greece and Cyprus.
Borrell said Turkey was a key partner for the EU even though relations are “not passing through the best moment.” He called for increased cooperation and dialogue.
“Currently, the situation is far from being ideal ... We have a mutual interest to get out of this situation and chart a new and positive trajectory,” Borrell said.
Borrell, who met with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, told reporters later during a video conference, that the EU supports the positions of Greece and Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
On Turkey's dispute with France, Borrell said: “It's not acceptable that between the navies of two (NATO) members these kinds of situations can happen.”
Earlier, Borrell also spoke of the need to overhaul a 2016 agreement between Turkey and the EU. The deal, aimed to curb the massive flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to Europe, but unraveled in late February when Turkey made good on a threat to open its borders. Ankara, fearing a new migration flow from northwestern Syria, said it can no longer hold back migrants who wanted to go to Europe.
Greek forces pushed back, leading to scenes of chaos and violence, the deaths of at least two migrants and hundreds of injuries.
Cavusoglu said Turkey wouldn't accept a revision of the agreement that would be attached to new conditions, such as concessions on Cyprus.
Last week, France temporarily suspended its role in a NATO maritime security operation after Paris accused Turkey of violating a U.N. arms embargo in Libya where the two countries support warring sides. France’s temporary withdrawal from the Sea Guardian mission follows a dispute on whether a Turkish naval targeting radar “lit up” a French frigate in the Mediterranean in June.
“France was not honest,” Cavusoglu said. “It needs to apologize to Turkey. And it needs to apologize to the EU and to NATO for deceiving them.”
Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.