By Selcan Hacaoglu in 30/11/2020
Turkey’s Oruc Reis seismic exploration vessel
ANKARA (Bloomberg) – Turkey pulled an energy exploration ship out of the eastern Mediterranean and emphasized its respect for non-Muslim minorities, speaking to European leaders that they will consider tougher sanctions against Ankara next week.
While warning of additional EU sanctions, Turkey has already indicated that it is ready for confidence-building measures and negotiations with Greece on territorial disputes, and recently sent an envoy to Brussels in an effort to defuse tensions.
Turkey’s Energy Ministry confirmed that the Oruc Reis inspection boat was brought home in a Twitter post on Monday.
European leaders have also pushed for greater tolerance in Muslim-majority Turkey towards other religions, and on Sunday, Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul met with religious leaders and heads of non-Muslim minority foundations to assure them that the government would work. to solve problems related to their churches, schools and properties.
Among other things, the United States and the EU have long lobbied Turkey to reopen the Halki Theological School that trained generations of church leaders, including Patriarch Bartholomew I, the head of the Istanbul-based Greek Orthodox church. . The school was unable to accept new applicants in 1971, then closed in 1985 after all remaining students graduated.
“Religious minorities are the wealth of our country, based on the principle of equal citizenship and common history,” Kalin said in a Twitter post, adding that discriminating against them would weaken Turkey.
Until now, the EU has been reluctant to clamp down on Turkish activities that it considers controversial, as Turkey acts as a bulwark against a flood of refugees from the Middle East. In February, the bloc imposed asset freezes and travel bans on two Turkish Petroleum Corp. employees in response to Turkey’s search for natural gas off Cyprus. A Cypriot proposal to extend that blacklist has been delayed since June.
The December meeting was scheduled after Cyprus agreed in October to lift EU sanctions against Belarus for its controversial presidential elections, but on the condition that the bloc debate a tougher stance against Ankara.
Since then, Turkey has further irritated the EU by reopening Varosha, a ghost town in the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus, and housing Erdogan there. The area had been abandoned and sealed off since Turkey seized control of northern Cyprus in 1974, following a coup attempt in which a military junta in Athens tried to unite the island with Greece.
Greece has asked Germany, Spain and Italy to stop exporting submarines, frigates and other military equipment to Turkey, which wants to develop its defense industry, preferably through cooperation with NATO allies. Ankara is pressuring France to agree to joint Eurosam and German missile production to provide engine and transmission systems for Turkey’s first locally developed battle tank.
“There is still an attempt to get a response from the German authorities regarding these permits,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told a parliamentary committee on Friday. “If someone is going to impose an embargo on us, it prompts us to produce our own energy package and it will have no other effect than that.