Natural gas dispute – EU threatens Turkey with new sanctions

The European Union could impose sanctions on Turkey over the gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, but a diplomatic solution has yet to be found.

The EU threatens Turkey with further sanctions for gas extraction in the Eastern Mediterranean. But before any new punitive measures are decided, diplomacy must be given another chance, it was said Friday after European diplomats met with EU foreign ministers in Berlin. A final decision on sanctions could be taken at a special EU summit starting on September 24.

Greece and Cyprus have long demanded tougher sanctions over gas extraction in Turkey. They believe they are done in their sea areas and therefore illegal. Turkey rejects the allegations. It takes the view that the waters in which it searches for natural gas belong to the continental shelf, even though they are close to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastelorizo.

Sanctions since 2019

The EU had already imposed the first entry bans and asset freezes in February. In 2019, it was also decided to limit the allocation of EU funds and to suspend the negotiations on an air transport agreement.

The question of how the EU should deal with the conflict over natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean was one of the two main topics at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Friday, alongside a debate on Russia. The dispute had recently come to a head due to the start of a new fact-finding mission in Turkey. There is a similar conflict over the island of Cyprus, off whose coast rich natural gas reserves have already been discovered.

Greece needs support

The question of how many sanctions to apply in the conflict is controversial in the EU. Countries like Germany would rather start with further diplomatic initiatives first. The federal government has been trying to mediate in the dispute for weeks. “We need a diplomatic solution to this conflict,” said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) during the deliberations on Thursday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) made a similar statement during her summer press conference on Friday. EU countries should take the arguments of the Athens government seriously and support Greece where the government is right, she said. But she doesn’t want any further escalations. Discussions are needed about the classification of the economic zones.

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