The European Union’s offer for a “positive agenda” with Turkey remains on the table, European leaders said early Friday, following their meeting in Brussels.

A joint statement released by the leaders criticized Ankara’s energy exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean but stopped short of calling for severe economic sanctions against Turkey.

“The European Council reaffirms the EU’s strategic interest in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey,” the leaders said.

“The offer for a positive EU-Turkey agenda remains on the table, provided Turkey shows readiness to promote a genuine partnership with the Union and its Member States and resolve differences through dialogue and in accordance with international law.”

They said enhanced cooperation between the EU and Turkey could cover the economy and trade, people to people contacts, high-level dialogue meetings, and continued cooperation on migration issues.

The leaders reaffirmed their support for the resumption of UN-led talks for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

They also raised their expectation for the early resumption of direct exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey to overcome their disputes.

New review in March 2019

Despite proposals tabled by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration to introduce severe economic sanctions, ar an arms embargo on Turkey, the majority of European leaders opposed harsher measures and advocated a softer line.

The leaders instructed EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell to prepare a report on the state of play of EU-Turkey political, economic, and trade relations, and “on options how to proceed” in relations.

They said this report will be discussed at their next summit in March 2021, or earlier if this becomes necessary.

Limited restrictive measures

The summit also signaled that the EU may increase pressure on Ankara in the coming weeks, by including additional individuals from Turkey’s energy sector to a sanctions regime, which was created in November 2019.

The leaders instructed relevant European bodies to prepare “additional listings” in light of recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Currently, only two executives of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation are subject to these sanctions, which consist of an assets freeze and a travel ban to the European Union.

Eastern Mediterranean tensions

EU members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have long been at odds with Turkey over maritime claims in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara has rejected maritime boundary claims of these countries and stressed that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

The Turkish government has sent several drillships in recent months to explore for energy resources in the region, asserting Turkey’s rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiations.

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