Erdogan calls for energy talks as EU considers Med sanctions

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Turkish Presidency

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks, in Istanbul, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Erdogan has criticised France for supporting illegally Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a day after he renewed his vitriolic attacks on French President Emmanuel Macron, saying he hopes France will get rid of him soon. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday called for negotiations over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, days ahead of a European Union summit where leaders could decide to impose sanctions on Turkey.

The leaders are meeting Thursday in Brussels and will address Turkish missions to explore gas reserves in waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.

“We believe we can solve the problems of the eastern Mediterranean by not excluding each other but by bringing all the actors together around the same table,” Erdogan said in a video message to a university forum on the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a region fraught with tensions this year between rivals Greece and Turkey.

However, he said Turkey would “not accept plans and maps that aim to confine us to the shores of Antalya”, a reference to the maritime boundaries that Turkey says other countries are seeking to impose on it.

At a summit in October, European leaders warned Turkey to withdraw its energy research ships or face punitive measures.

Late last month, the Turkish seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis returned to port, as it had done before October’s EU meeting. However, another research ship, the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, remains off Cyprus’ southwest coast.

EU foreign ministers agreed Monday that Turkey's behavior has not improved and that the two-day summit is looming as a “crucial” meeting for EU-Turkey ties.

“All of them considered that we have not seen a fundamental change of direction,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters after chairing their talks. “In several aspects the situation has worsened.”