Turkey eyes improved ties with EU based on full membership

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Ankara wants to join the European Union as a full member while noting that the bloc's statements accusing Ankara of stoking tensions are wrong. He also urged the EU to use "common sense."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (R) speaks during a joint news conference with Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Ankara on Dec 8.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkey urged the European Union on Dec. 8 to use "common sense" to end a dispute over natural gas that has fanned territorial rows in the eastern Mediterranean and drawn a threat of sanctions from the bloc's leaders.

Speaking at a news conference with his Hungarian counterpart in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Ankara wanted to join the bloc as a full member, and said EU statements accusing Ankara of stoking tensions were wrong.

EU member Greece had continued "provocative" steps despite Turkey's diplomatic efforts, he said.

On Dec. 7, EU foreign ministers said Turkey had failed to help end the row with EU members Greece and Cyprus over natural gas resources, but they left any decision on retaliatory sanctions for an EU summit on Dec. 10.

"They need to be fair and honest here. If they also think strategically and with common sense, not just at the summit but always, and we achieve a positive atmosphere, we can improve our ties," Çavuşoğlu said. "We can only solve our problems with dialogue and diplomacy."

"We want to improve our ties with the EU. We are not saying this because there is a summit or because there are sanctions and other things on the agenda," he added. "We always wanted to improve our ties on the basis of full membership."

NATO member and EU candidate Turkey has been at odds with Greece and Cyprus over the extent of their continental shelves in the eastern Mediterranean and rights to offshore hydrocarbon resources.

Tensions flared in August when Turkey sent its Oruç Reis survey vessel to waters claimed by Greece.

After withdrawing Oruç Reis for what it said was maintenance ahead of a previous EU summit in October, Ankara sent it back shortly after, citing unsatisfactory results from the summit. It withdrew the vessel again last week, a move welcomed by NATO and the EU.

European Council President Charles Michel warned Turkey not to play "cat and mouse" by withdrawing ships before EU summits, only to redeploy them afterwards. Ankara has said the vessel's returns were opportunities for diplomacy, but that Greece and the EU squandered them.

The EU's Parliament has called for sanctions against Turkey. France is leading the push in the bloc to sanction Turkey at the summit, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Dec. 7 that Turkey would not "bow down to threats and blackmail" while repeating a call for dialogue.