Duvar English - Reuters
Turkey will not abandon its rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean because of possible European Union sanctions or criticism, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Dec. 14.
At a summit last week, EU leaders agreed to prepare limited sanctions on Turkish individuals over a row with Greece and Cyprus about offshore energy exploration, but postponed discussions on any harsher steps until March.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the summit that EU leaders planned to discuss weapons exports to Turkey with allies in the NATO military alliance following a Greek push for an arms embargo on Ankara.
Answering questions in parliament as part of annual budget talks, Çavuşoğlu said: "It is out of the question for us to abandon our rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean because we will face sanctions or the EU will criticize us."
"If no one can move counter to Turkey in Syria, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus, or Afghanistan, this comes from its active foreign policy."
Earlier on Dec. 14, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was upset by the United States and EU moving forward with sanctions processes against Turkey, saying Turkey expected the EU "not to sanction it but rather to realize its promise of full (EU) membership."
Shying away from a threat made in October to consider wider economic measures, EU leaders agreed a summit statement on Dec. 10 that paves the way to punish individuals accused of planning or taking part in what the bloc says is unauthorised drilling off Cyprus.
The steps did not go far enough for Greece, with envoys saying the country expressed frustration that the EU was hesitant to target Turkey's economy over the hydrocarbons dispute, as Germany, Italy and Spain pushed to give diplomacy more time.
EU leaders now expect the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, to come forward by March with a broad overview of the bloc's political, trade and economic relations with Turkey.
That could allow for the EU to either broaden sanctions or offer closer trade ties via an expanded customs union, depending on Ankara's willingness to help end tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, avoiding further measures, diplomats said.
In 2011, the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government began exploring for natural gas with a U.S. company despite warnings from Turkey, which does not recognise the divided island's status and claims exploration rights.
Tensions flared in August when Ankara sent a seismic exploration ship into Cyprus' exclusive economic zone and also in waters claimed by Greece. The EU, led by Germany, has been trying to negotiate a settlement but without success.