Duvar English

The European Union’s relationship with Turkey is at a turning point, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Sept. 15, urging Ankara to back down from conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean and uphold basic human rights in the country.

Ties “are at a watershed moment in history, which will go to one side or the other, depending on what happens in the next days,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament.

“With the serious developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkish foreign policy actions in the region since last fall, things have become even more worrying and complex,” he said.

Borrell said that solutions will not come “from an increasingly confrontational relationship” and dialogue with Turkey needs to be pursued in order to stop the escalation.

“We do not want it, we do not look for it. Turkey is an important neighbor for the European Union –we are not going to change geography, it will remain so– and it is a key partner in many areas, migration for example. It is going to be difficult to believe that we can solve the migration flows without the help of Turkey, both at the Eastern Mediterranean and now with the Libyan crisis also in the Central Mediterranean,” he said.

Borrell also said that the latest move by Turkey to discontinue seismic exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean is “a step in the right direction and gives us some hope that it will lead to further steps towards dialogue.” “Because as the Presidency said, we are not going to solve it by military means, but through dialogue and negotiations,” he said.

The long-running dispute between Turkey and Greece flared last month when Ankara sent a ship, the Oruç Reis, to survey waters claimed by Greece. Greek and Turkish warships shadowing the boat collided, highlighting the potential for military escalation. The European Union said Ankara could face sanctions.

On Sept. 13, less than two weeks before EU leaders discuss the crisis, the Oruç Reis returned to port. Turkey said it would resume work after regular maintenance, but a senior Turkish official said it could stay longer to give diplomacy a chance.

Despite calling Oruç Reis back to port, Turkey still has a drilling ship and a seismic survey vessel operating in waters claimed by Cyprus, which is demanding EU sanctions on Ankara.