The Middle East Eye :Is Turkey heading for a cold war with the EU?

An article posted in the Middle East website said that Turkey is preparing for possible sanctions from the United States over the purchase of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, and it is reported that Turkey may face another set of sanctions on a completely different issue.

According to the article posted in the Middle East which said  that just as Turkey braces itself for possible sanctions from the United States over its purchase of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, news has broken that it is facing another set of sanctions, on an entirely different, but at least equally intractable issue, from the European Union.

Though they have so far received relatively little attention in Turkey or the rest of the world, the scene is now set for a deepening political and diplomatic confrontation which could be very hard to reverse. If so, these EU sanctions mark a new stage in the unfolding process of Turkey estrangement from the West.

News of the sanctions came on Monday when the European Council (the meeting of EU heads of government) announced that it was imposing sanctions against Turkey for drilling in the seabed off Cyprus which it regards as illegal.

New sanctions

The sanctions are not about Turkey’s long-stalled application for EU membership, which is now so dormant that for most purposes it can be regarded as dead, largely due to the Cyprus dispute.

Now a country which is in theory still a membership candidate is faced with sanctions which strike at routine working relations between Turkey and the EU. Negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement are suspended.

The regular Turkey-EU Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues are called off “for the time being". 

Pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020, likely to be worth around €800m over a year, will be reviewed.

The European Investment Bank will review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending. The two financial sanctions have not been spelt out in detail but at a time when the Turkish economy is under serious strain, they clearly add to the country’s difficulties.

No backing down

What seems to be happening instead is that the United States and Israel are forging an energy alliance to build an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline (EastMed) with Greece and the Greek Cypriots. A visit to Israel by Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, to discuss this alliance, took place on 21 March in Jerusalem.  

The implications for Turkey are obvious – and completely unacceptable. A trilateral partnership of Greece, Cyprus and Israel has been declared and the US will, according to legislation going through Congress, support it in both energy and security matters.

The stage is being set for a strategic confrontation in the Eastern Mediterranean between the US and two very small countries against the largest and strongest nation of the region which until now saw the Eastern Mediterranean as its area of influence.

With two votes inside the European Union and Washington behind them, the Greeks and Greek Cypriots have had - surprisingly - little difficulty in getting the EU behind them too. 

This is happening at the price of releasing nationalist antipathies and ancient grievances which may prove difficult to quell. For two months, the Nicosia government has been warning that it will prosecute those on board the Fatih, who are believed to include Croatian and British citizens, using the European Arrest Warrant. 

The confrontation being created now could easily become permanent and impossible to reverse. Turkey’s reaction to the news from the EU has been predictable.

There is no sign it will back down. Instead even the left of centre opposition has rallied to support President Erdogan’s line. Turkey is not withdrawing the Fatih. It says it will send out two more prospecting vessels and it will protect them if necessary with its navy.



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