Through Selcan Hacaoglu sure 11/30/2020
Turkish seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis
ANKARA (Bloomberg) – Turkey has pulled an energy exploration vessel from the Eastern Mediterranean and has underlined its respect for non-Muslim minorities, in overtures to EU leaders who will consider tougher sanctions on Ankara next week.
While warning of additional EU sanctions, Turkey has previously signaled that it is ready to take confidence-building measures and negotiate with Greece on territorial disputes, and recently sent an envoy to Brussels in the goal of defusing tensions.
Turkey’s Energy Ministry confirmed that the Oruc Reis investigative vessel was brought home in a Twitter message on Monday.
EU leaders also pushed for greater tolerance from Muslim-majority Turkey to other religions, and on Sunday presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul met with religious leaders and heads of foundations of non-Muslim minorities to assure them that the government would work. to resolve issues regarding their churches, schools and properties.
Among other things, the United States and the EU have long pressured Turkey to reopen the Halki Theological School that has trained generations of church leaders, including Patriarch Bartholomew I, the chief of the Greek Orthodox Church based in Istanbul. The school was not allowed to accept new applicants in 1971, then closed in 1985 after all remaining students graduated.
“Religious minorities are the wealth of our country, based on the principle of equality of citizenship and common history,” Kalin said in a Twitter post, adding that any discrimination against them would weaken Turkey.
So far, the EU has been reluctant to crack down too harshly on Turkish activities that it considers contentious, as Turkey acts as a bulwark against a flood of refugees from the Middle East. In February, the bloc imposed asset freezes and travel bans on two Turkish Petroleum Corp. employees. in response to Turkey’s hunt for natural gas off Cyprus. A Cypriot proposal to expand this blacklist has been blocked since June.
The December meeting was scheduled after Cyprus agreed in October to lift EU sanctions against Belarus for its disputed presidential election – but on condition that the bloc debates a tougher stance against Ankara.
Turkey has since further angered the EU by reopening Varosha, a ghost town in the Turkish part of Cyprus, and welcoming Erdogan there. The area had been abandoned and cordoned off since Turkey took control of northern Cyprus in 1974, following an attempted coup in which a military junta in Athens sought to unite the island with Greece .
Greece called on Germany, Spain and Italy to stop exporting submarines, frigates and other military equipment to Turkey, which wants to develop its defense industry, preferably in cooperation with NATO allies. Ankara is pushing France to accept joint production of Eurosam missiles and Germany to supply engines and transmission systems for Turkey’s first locally developed main battle tank.
“There is still an attempt to get a response from the German authorities regarding these permits,” Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay told a parliamentary committee on Friday. “If someone wants to put an embargo on us, it just pushes us to produce our own power supply and it won’t have any effect other than that.