EU, US turn up heat on Turkey

The EU early Friday gave the green light for the expansion of sanctions against Turkey.

EU leaders and the United States have decided to step up pressure on Turkey on two separate issues.

The EU early Friday gave the green light for the expansion of sanctions against Turkey over its exploration of gas reserves in Mediterranean waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.

The United States is poised to impose sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition last year of Russian S-400 air defence systems, five sources including three US officials told Reuters on Thursday.

“Turkey has engaged in unilateral actions and provocations and escalated its rhetoric against the EU, EU member states and European leaders,” the EU leaders said in a statement from their summit in Brussels.

The conclusions, released by a European Council spokesman, called for a list to be drawn up of targets for “restrictive measures”.

The leaders mandated chief EU diplomat Josep Borrell to prepare a report on more measures that could be taken to “expand the scope” of the action, to be submitted by next March. “The idea is to turn the vice progressively,” a diplomat said.

A diplomat told AFP the sanctions would target individuals and that further measures could be imposed “if Turkey pursues its actions”.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the EU’s “firmness” on Turkey but there will be disappointment in Athens and Nicosia that the leaders did not agree to seek an arms embargo or to target entire sectors of Turkey’s economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped the messages sent by the EU would be “received correctly”.

Meanwhile, the long anticipated US sanctions would target Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries and its head, Ismail Demir, sources have said.

Two sources familiar with the matter, including a US official speaking on the condition of anonymity, said President Donald Trump had given aides the blessing for the sanctions.

The Turkish lira weakened as much as 1.4 per cent following the news. US sanctions could harm a Turkish economy struggling with a coronavirus-induced slowdown, double-digit inflation and badly depleted foreign reserves.

A senior Turkish official said sanctions would backfire and hurt ties between the two Nato members.