EU to implement targeted sanctions against Turkey in August if Hagia Sophia is not reverted to a museum

Hagia Sophia Dendias

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An unexpected positive outcome came following the meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels.

Greece was expecting only Cyprus and France at its side, but in the end a number of countries supported the Greek request for a list of sanctions against Turkey for converting Hagia Sophia. At the same time, the ministers approved the extension of sanctions against people associated with the Turkish company that carries out illegal exploration in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The measures requested by Greece will be targeted against specific industries, diplomatic sources told Ethnos, and will concern tourism, the economy and banks.

The list, which will be ready at the end of August, at the next Foreign Ministers' Council in Berlin, will be activated if and when Turkey continues its delinquency and provocative stance in the Southeastern Mediterranean region.

Initially the only force that insisted - apart from Greece and Cyprus - on a tough stance against Turkey was France. Many other countries, of smaller size and power, however, sided with Greece.

Sweden, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Estonia and Austria supported Athens' request.

On the other hand, presiding Germany, as well as Italy and Spain, were more hesitant. They wanted the results of the meeting to be more balanced, in the direction of a resumption of the EU-Turkey dialogue.

The Greek side needed to recall its red lines and the scenarios that could be implemented in case Turkey violates the Greek EEZ, in order to change the climate in the Council. Eventually, the climate changed. And what the head of European diplomacy announced was agreed by all the ministers.

In particular, the Council did not give a "blank check" to EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell to start negotiations with Turkey, but instructed the High Representative to "explore new ways to reduce tensions with Turkey."

Also, to prepare at a technical level "possible measures that could be taken in relation to the challenges we face" and to investigate the addition of more entries on the list of sanctions, at the request of Cyprus.

And if some countries were hesitant about the list of measures, on the issue of Hagia Sophia, everyone agreed that the decision of the Turkish authorities is condemnable.

The High Representative announced that the Council "strongly condemns" Turkey's decision on Hagia Sophia, which "sparks suspicion and undermines efforts for dialogue and co-operation", and called on the Turkish government to reconsider its decision, even now. Borell stressed, however, that Turkey was an "important country" with which the EU could develop better relations but "with respect for European values ​​and international law."

He clarified that Turkey's unilateral actions must end.

Finally, in relation to Libya, according to the High Representative, there has been a deterioration of the situation and blatant violations of the UN arms embargo. The Council agreed to impose more sanctions on the implementation of the embargo.

In the background, Germany and Italy "lost" in the diplomatic bras de fer from France, which insisted that Turkey should be named as a country violating the arms embargo. Something that finally happened, albeit with a different wording.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also had a telephone conversation with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. During the communication, the issues that will concern the upcoming Summit and the provocative action of Turkey to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque were discussed.