EU calls for concrete action from Turkey as top envoy visits

The European Union said it is seeking actions, not words, from Turkey to help repair bilateral relations.

Peter Stano, the EU’s spokesperson, made the remarks on the eve of a visit to Brussels by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The NATO member and EU candidate has declared that the two sides should open a new page in political and diplomatic relations. Ties have been marred by a dispute with Cyprus and Greece over territorial rights to the Mediterranean.

“What is very important for us, the European Union and its member states, is to see the implementation of these intentions and declarations in practice," Stano said, according to France24.

"The declarations are good but what is be better is concrete facts and actions."

The EU’s political leaders expanded a sanctions blacklist of Turkish officials involved in drilling for hydrocarbons off Cyprus at a summit in December. They are due to meet again in March to consider further punitive measures.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also pledged democratic and judicial reforms to help his country meet the EU’s criteria for membership, saying Turkey’s future lies in Europe. His government has yet to release details of the proposed measures.

Çavuşoğlu’s two-day visit to the EU capital comes ahead of negotiations with Greece on Monday designed to ease tensions over the two countries’ conflicting claims to territories off their shorelines. The start of the preliminary discussions has faced snags over the scope of the meetings, with Turkey requesting wider talks on bilateral issues.

France, Greece and Cyprus have been pushing for a tougher EU approach on Turkey, including imposing an arms embargo on the country. Germany, Spain and Italy are among EU members underscoring the importance of strategic ties and advocating a softer approach.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas held talks with Çavuşoğlu in Ankara on Monday. He said his government had seen “positive signals” from Turkey on hydrocarbon exploration. Turkey has withdrawn seismic survey ships from disputed waters to help ease tensions.

Dora Bakoyanni, a prominent Greek lawmaker and former foreign minister, this week called on Maas to explain how he had remained silent at a press conference with Çavuşoğlu as the Turkish minister repeated threats against Greece.

 “The responsibility for any tensions between the two countries will be on the shoulders of Athens” should it fail to cooperate, Çavuşoğlu said at the briefing.

Bakoyanni said Greece has the right to strongly express its dissatisfaction if Maas had understood Çavuşoğlu’s comments, made in Turkish and translated, and not reacted.