Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes “a win-win formula” can be found in a row with Greece over undersea resources, according to comments published on Monday, as EU leaders mull sanctions ahead of a summit.
NATO members Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over maritime territory in the eastern Mediterranean, believed to be rich in energy resources including natural gas.
Turkey has enraged Greece by sending a survey ship and navy vessels to the disputed waters, prompting Athens to push its EU allies for tougher sanctions at Thursday’s summit.
“I am calling on all neighboring countries in the Mediterranean especially Greece not to see this issue as a zero-sum game,” Erdogan said.
“I believe a win-win formula that observes everyone’s rights could be found.”
Erdogan reiterated a call to gather “all the actors around the table” including the breakaway republic in northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.
But Greece has insisted Turkey – a candidate country to join the European Union – must halt its exploration before negotiations can begin.
Not all EU members are convinced by sanctions, with some fearing that an escalating standoff could see Erdogan’s government once again allow asylum seekers to leave Turkey and cross into the bloc.
European Council chief Charles Michel, who will host the summit, on Friday expressed Europe’s frustration.
“I think that the cat and mouse game needs to end,” Michel said, referring to Turkey’s repeated incursions into disputed waters with gas exploration vessels.
“We will have a debate at the European summit on December 10 and we are ready to use the means at our disposal,” he said.
Last month, Turkey pulled its research vessel Oruc Reis back to port, just as it did before a previous EU summit.