Germany says Turkey faces EU sanctions over Mediterranean aggression

Heiko Maas predicts December summit will move to sanction Turks

This handout photograph released by the Turkish Defence Ministry on August 12, 2020, shows Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' (C) as it is escorted by Turkish Naval ships in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya on August 10, 2020. - Greece on August 11, demanded that Turkey withdraw a research ship at the heart of their growing dispute over maritime rights and warned it would defend its sovereignty, calling for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to resolve the crisis. Tensions were stoked August 10, when Ankara dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo in the eastern Mediterranean. (Photo by - / TURKISH DEFENCE MINISTRY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /TURKISH DEFENCE MINISTRY " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Germany's foreign minister said on Thursday that the country was ready to lead an EU drive to impose sanctions on Turkey over its aggression in the eastern Mediterranean.

Heiko Maas demanded Turkey cease provocations in the eastern Mediterranean if it wants to avoid new discussions about European Union sanctions against Ankara at an EU summit in December.

"It is up to Turkey what decision will be taken at the EU summit in December," Mr Maas said, before a meeting with his EU counterparts.

"If we see no positive signals coming from Turkey by December, only further provocations such as [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's visit to north Cyprus, then we are heading for a difficult debate," Mr Maas said.

The question of imposing sanctions against Turkey would then certainly come up again, he said.

In a joint opinion piece written to welcome President-elect Joe Biden's victory, Mr Maas and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for a unified approach against Turkish policies. "We will have to address Turkey's problematic behaviour in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond," they wrote.

In a senior leaders' meeting last week, Greece and Egypt also said they would welcome more active engagement in the eastern Mediterranean from the administration of Mr Biden.

“Greece and Egypt will receive positively a more decisive role of the United States in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, as he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

"See what is happening with Cyprus, in Libya, in the Caucasus. There does not seem to be a common understanding with Turkey on important, strategic priorities. And this is not just an observation on the part of Greece. Many other countries in the region seem to share the same view on Turkey's role as a troublemaker in the region," he said, during a visit to the UAE on Wednesday.

Nato divisions in the region spilled into the open in the summer as naval vessels from France, Greece and Turkey clashed on the high seas.

Turkey has been accused of undermining peace and stability in the region by deploying a research vessel, the Oruc Reis, in a contested area of the Mediterranean until November 23.

Map shows competing maritime borders according to agreements made by Athens and Cairo, Tripoli and Ankara
Map shows competing maritime borders according to agreements made by Athens and Cairo, Tripoli and Ankara

Overlapping maritime zones have been carved across the area by Turkey, Libya, Egypt and Greece to stake out further claims on natural gas deposits. Turkey's support for the Government of National Accord faction in Tripoli has seen European navy patrols intercept Turkish shipments to its North African ally.

Cyprus has also fought for EU-wide support to push back against Turkey. Mr Erdogan inflamed tensions on the divided island earlier this week where he called for two states on the territory. With Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar by his side, Mr Erdogan toured Varosha, an abandoned town in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus that the Turkish authorities partially opened in violation of UN resolutions and European policies.

At a meeting of European foreign ministers last month there was failure to break the deadlock over sanctions  against Turkey.

The Cypriot government protested the lack of action against Turkey.