On Saturday, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said that Turkey’s active and unilateral involvement in Libya and Syria has been increasingly perceived as not aligned with the security interests of the EU. The European official called upon Ankara to reconsider its policies and informed of an understanding reached by all EU member states regarding Turkish actions.
In a statement, Borrell said that tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey have been one of the greatest challenges for the EU in 2020 and this will likely remain the case for 2021.
He noted, “Mutual expectations from the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Statement, which followed the outbreak of the migration crisis of 2015, have not borne fruit.”
Borrell affirmed that Turkey’s international agenda and methods are not well aligned with the EU’s, adding that Turkish criticism of the EU naval operation IRINI reveals fundamental differences of understanding regarding the UN Security Council resolution imposing an arms embargo on Libya.
The EU top diplomat stated that the Memorandum of Understanding signed in November last year between Turkey and the Government of National Accord in Libya, which identified respective exclusive economic zones, has fuelled serious concerns and elicited a strong response from the EU.
Additionally, Borrell said that the agreement also contained clauses on military support that were in contradiction with the UN arms embargo on Libya, adding that this was soon accompanied by the continuous deployment of Turkish exploration or drilling vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean, which have directly challenged Greece and Cyprus.
The EU official confirmed that these Turkish activities had already started earlier and had led to the development of a specific regime of EU restrictive measures aimed at protecting Cypriot waters. Unfortunately, Turkish NAVTEX notifications and vessels such as the ‘Oruc Reis’ or the evocative ‘Barbarossa’ have become household names in Brussels.
“The relationship with Turkey has deep historical roots. Its present direction of travel, however, seems to take it further away from the EU,” Borrell noted.
Borrell also added that this distancing also concerns Turkey’s internal developments, notably fundamental freedoms, but also Turkey’s external engagement, pointing out that the latter has gained further relevance in 2020, be it in Syria, Iraq, or Libya. In Libya, Turkey has turned the tables in difficult moments for the Government of National Accord. During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkey’s support also resulted in a major victory for Azerbaijan.