The agenda of an extraordinary summit of the European Council in Brussels on October 1 was mainly devoted to relations with Turkey and a review of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. EU member states paid special attention to the conflict between Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as to review relations between EU and Turkey. The Turkish issue became the main issue at the summit.
On the first working day of the summit, the EU Heads of State and Government decided to call for a dialogue with Turkey to resolve the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.
Turkey has long been discussing the line of maritime borders with Cyprus as well as with Greece, but the huge natural gas deposits discovered in recent years in the Eastern Mediterranean basin have further increased tensions over borders with the Greeks. Turkish research and drilling vessels, with the assistance of the Turkish navy, are conducting test drilling in the disputed area. Cyprus and Greece consider these activities a violation of their sovereignty and international law.
“We have a dual strategy. On the one hand, we want to give a chance for political dialogue, and on the other, we express our determination to defend our values. In addition, we reaffirm our solidarity with Greece and Cyprus,” said European Council President Charles Michel on the outcome of the first day of the EU summit and the adoption of a resolution on relations with Turkey. Michel underlined the willingness of the EU to participate in a “more positive” agenda, provided that Turkey also wishes to participate. However, if the EU does not find a common language with Ankara, it will be ready to use all available means in case of further unilateral actions or Turkish provocations in violation of international law.
But for now, the European Council remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of this debate [with Turkey],” Charles Michel said. He said the leaders of EU member states will return to the question of how they want to shape Europe’s relations with Turkey in December.
At a press conference on Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the start of a dialogue between the Greek and Turkish sides a step in the right direction. However, in her opinion, it is regrettable that Ankara “did not make such a gesture” towards Cyprus.
Von der Leyen emphasized that the conflict can only be resolved through peaceful dialogue and respect for international law. According to her, the Union wants to maintain long-term and perspective relations with Turkey, strengthen bilateral trade cooperation on migration issues as well. But this can be achieved only if Turkey stops its provocative activities.
French President Emmanuelle Macron, leaving the first working day of the summit, said Europe could not “restart the dialogue” with Turkey by allowing Ankara to “cross the line. “We must show our strength and determination while taking action against the escalation of the conflict,” the French president said.
According to his information, at the summit, all participants made concessions to make “the adopted text [resolution on Turkey] the best”. The EU sends Turkey a very clear and strong message on Greece and Cyprus and calls for dialogue,” Macron said. The French president went on to talk about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying credible information suggests that at least 300 jihadists had come from Syria through Turkey to support Azerbaijani forces in the war against Armenians. The militants are known, can be traced and identified as members of jihadi groups operating in the Aleppo region,” Makron said.
We can state that the outbreak of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, which coincided with the Turkish issue at the EU summit, gives Armenia a chance to initiate additional claims against Turkey for its military intervention in Transcaucasia in the remaining two months before the next EU summit on Turkey.
On the first day of the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the European Union should completely reconsider its relations with Turkey, without explaining what this revision is.
In his Twitter feed, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stressed that the EU had expressed a clear threat to Turkey if Ankara continued to violate international law.
The European Union sent a strong and clear signal to Ankara about its intention to continue the dialogue and to defend the interests and rights of Greece and Cyprus, – said Chancellor Merkel today, October 2, after the EU summit.
Angela Merkel said the 2016 EU-Turkey partnership agreement on migration should be revised.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who arrived on the second day of the summit, said he would now let Turkey decide how it wants to shape its relationship with the European Union after a strong message from the European Council the day before. Rutte said if Turkey chooses the right direction, the 2016 migration partnership could continue. But if Ankara continues illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, the European Union could use all its instruments, including sanctions, in response. According to Rutte, Brussels is ready to modernize the Customs Union with Ankara to strengthen trade relations and expand cooperation on migration.
Upon arrival at the summit, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in turn, urged Turkey to refrain from further provocations and violations of international law. Conte, in the context of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, warned against any external interference, which, in his opinion, would further upset the situation.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mikotais said upon arrival at the summit that the European Union had sent a “message of unity, solidarity, and determination” to Turkey. The Union made it clear that the lifting of unilateral Turkish actions was a necessary condition for improving relations between the European Union and Turkey.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel called the European Council decisions on Turkey and Belarus a step forward but stressed that “it is important not to deceive our neighbors.
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said that the agreement on sanctions against Belarus and decisive actions against Turkey has shown that Europe is able to act when it is a really important issue. He called for the leaders of member states to agree on a common position on the conflict between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, and between Turkey and Cyprus and stressed that “when we unite, we can influence events in the world. In all areas, the EU must learn to make better use of its common strength, he added.
Already on Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry gave its response to the resolution of the European Union Extraordinary Summit. According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the text of the EU resolution is a good example of how Greece and Cyprus “seized” relations between the EU and Turkey, while some EU member states would like to develop relations with Turkey. Among the positive points, the Turkish Foreign Ministry mentioned the agreement on the resumption of the Turkish-Hellenic negotiations on the law of the sea. However, the EU resolution still does not mention the Turkish population of divided Cyprus and the fair distribution of revenues from hydrocarbon sources around the island between the Greek and Turkish inhabitants of the island. This indicates, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, that the EU is ignoring the Turkish Cypriots. “It is out of the question that Turkey should negotiate the maritime borders with Cyprus, which does not represent the Turkish population of the island,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
The Turkish diplomatic mission urged the Greek and Cypriot sides to meet as soon as possible in order to coordinate their maritime inspections separately and establish a cooperation mechanism providing for fair distribution of income. As long as this is not ensured, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will continue its research activities.
At the same time, it was emphasized that Brussels is not constructive in using the “sanctions language” against Ankara and that the steps were taken by Turkey to protect its own rights and those of the Turkish Cypriot population are legitimate.
“Turkey intends to develop its relations with the European Union in all areas, based on common interests and within a fair framework, with full membership in mind. “It is now time for them to take general steps to achieve concrete results”, which include granting Turkish citizens a Schengen visa. In other words, Turkey would like to receive from