Turkey tensions, Belarus elections on agenda as EU leaders meet

Brussels, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- European Union leaders on Thursday opened a summit in Brussels at which they hope to resolve tensions with Turkey over access rights to disputed offshore oil and gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

The meeting, the first in-person summit to be held since the pandemic began, will also discuss relations with China and the recent escalation of violence in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“We want more predictability, we want more stability in this region,” European Council President Charles Michel said as he arrived at the summit.

“We also want to demonstrate our concrete solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in order to defend and protect their sovereign rights.”

“Several options are on the table, and we are ready to engage in a positive manner and we will have the chance to decide which direction we, the EU, want to go in.”

The two-day meeting also expects to address sanctions against Belarus over its recent elections — denounced by the West as fraudulent — and the subsequent suppression of mass protests calling for strongman president Alexander Lukashenko to step down after nearly three decades in power.

Cyprus has refused to agree to any sanctions until an EU-wide response to Turkey is agreed. Several leaders referred to the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, which saw Greece and Turkey hold competing military naval drills after Ankara stepped up its gas exploration efforts, when they arrived at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said she was “sure the Council will reaffirm full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus.”

“Either the tensions are rising – that is something that we don’t want — or there is deescalation — this is what we want,” she said.

Her former colleague, German chancellor Angela Merkel, urged her fellow leaders to bear in mind the fact that Turkey, as a member of Nato, is a military ally and major partner to the EU, especially in terms of controlling mass immigration.

“Despite the challenges, the EU has a big interest in maintaining a constructive relationship,” Merkel said.

French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile said the solidarity between the 27 EU member states and Athens and Nicosia “is non-negotiable.”

“When an EU member state is attacked or threatened, when its territorial waters are not respected, it is the duty of Europeans to show solidarity,” Macron said as he called for a “demanding” dialogue with Turkey.

The summit will feature a working dinner on Thursday night before concluding on Friday. EFE-EPA


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