The in-vivo Foreign Affairs Council of the EU Member States chaired by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has been completed.
In a press conference, Josep Borrell noted that “at the end of today’s meeting we also discussed our relations with Turkey, as identified in the Conclusions of the European Council last December, including sanctions. We have taken note of the important message that has been sent since then by the Turkish authorities, as well as the moves that have been made. We reaffirm the importance of contacts with Turkey in order to move forward and consolidate dialogue and cooperation.
Exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey kicked off today. This is an important step in this direction. I believe that the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides a solid basis for resolving disputes over maritime issues. Given that we stand up for International Law, this is an example.
It will be equally important to ensure the resumption of talks on the settlement of the Cyprus issue under the auspices of the United Nations and on the basis of the relevant procedure. Talks should start as soon as possible. The EU is ready to be invited as an observer, as has happened in previous rounds of talks.
We will follow these developments closely and will continue our efforts in relation to Turkey in view of the Report I will be presenting -together with the European Commission- to the European Council next March, taking into account in particular the Conclusions of the European Council of last December, but also the developments of the coming weeks, in every respect. At the same time, COREPER will continue their work in accordance with the above Conclusions.”
Asked about the progress of the issue of more names being added to the list of sanctions against Turkey following a relevant decision at the December European Council, and whether it was decided to halt the process due to recent signs of good behavior by Turkey, the High Representative said: the updated list of sanctions is not ready yet, but has not been set aside. Work is ongoing, he added.
Asked whether he was going to visit Turkey soon, about the message the EU had received from the Turkish Foreign Minister, but also about the message the EU had conveyed to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell said that there were discussions with Mevlüt Çavuşoĝlu on issues that had caused problems between the EU and Turkey in 2020, with both sides agreeing to overcome the difficulties and look forward to better cooperation and a better neighborhood.
The High Representative welcomed the fact that the frustration that poisoned relations last summer and autumn has ceased as there are no Turkish drillships or drilling operatons, noting that both sides had agreed to keep this momentum going and use it positively in order to reach agreements.
The High Representative also referred to today’s start of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, expressing hope that the first talks on resolving the Cyprus issue would begin in February. “My concern,” he added, “is that we must keep this momentum going and calmness must prevail in all issues that hampered bilateral relations in 2020, such as the Cyprus issue or the demarcation of maritime zones, so that there is a good atmosphere.”
According to diplomatic sources, during the discussion, High Representative Josep Borrell and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas briefed on their contacts with the Turkish Foreign Minister, underlining their main conclusion about there being willingness on the part of Turkey to strengthen its relations with the EU. It is in this context that Turkey seems to have put an end to its violations in the Eastern Mediterranean at this stage with exploratory talks with Greece underway, while Ankara seems to be in a good mood for EU involvement in the negotiations on the Cyprus issue and the resumption of talks, stating that “they are not dogmatic” as to the intended purpose of the talks.
The debate, according to diplomatic sources, shows a positive first assessment of Turkey’s statements and actions which, however, must be accompanied by further concrete actions and be lasting.
During the discussion, it was estimated that the “new” approach of Turkey may be due to the following factors: Firstly, the threat of sanctions; secondly, the country’s financial state; third, Biden’s election in the US.
On the EU side, there is willingness and will to strengthen Euro-Turkish relations on the basis of last December’s European Council Conclusions. At the same time, on the basis of the same conclusions, the preparation for the adoption of targeted measures continues. Developments in either direction are conditional to Turkey’s moves. /ibna