eu-sanctions 30 July 2020

Turkey suspends sea survey after EU sanctions threat

Turkey has stepped back from its plans to begin a seismic survey in the Eastern Mediterranean this month, ahead of plans to drill for hydrocarbons, after Greece warned Ankara it was courting European Union sanctions by going ahead.

Turkey announced last week that it was planning to carry out a seismic survey south of three Greek islands, which would last until 2 August.

But Turkish media reported Tuesday that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had instructed his aides to ‘be constructive and put this on hold for some time,’ after the declaration to begin the survey increased tensions with neighbouring Greece and prompted criticism by the United States, Germany and other European countries.

In a 13 July meeting, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that Turkey’s exploration work ran ‘counter to EU interest, to the sovereign rights of EU member states and to international law,’ while German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Turkey must stop exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean if it wants to improve relations with the EU.

Meanwhile, the US State Department urged Turkish authorities ‘to halt any plans for operations and to avoid steps that raise tensions in the region.’

Ankara has insisted that its drilling activity is part of an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot government. Cyprus has been a divided island since Turkey annexed the north in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Greek Cypriot portion of the island is a member of the EU, but the government of the Turkish north is recognised by Ankara alone.