Greece has asked fellow European Union countries to halt military exports to Turkey the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday, amid a deepening dispute between the two neighbors over maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.
Nikos Dendias also said he has written to EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi to complain that Turkey is violating its customs union with the bloc.
“Turkey continues to violate the fundamental criteria of integration into the EU,” Dendias said, after a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana. Turkey has been a candidate to join the EU since 1999, although entry negotiations have been long stalled.
Dendias said he had asked his EU counterparts to halt the export of military equipment to Turkey “given that this equipment is being used in actions that destabilize our region.”
The minister did not name any specific countries, but Greek media reported the letters had been sent to the German, Spanish and Italian foreign ministers.
In his letter to Varhelyi, Dendias said he “stressed that Turkey is violating its customs union” and asked for the EU to examine imposing measures, including potentially suspending the customs union “as a clear message of condemnation for the continuing Turkish behavior of violations.”
The customs union, in place since the mid-1990s, allows for the free movement of goods between the 27-nation bloc and Turkey.
Neighbors and nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey have historically testy relations and are divided by a series of issues, including territorial disputes. But relations have soured significantly this year, with a spat over maritime boundaries and rights to potential undersea resources leading to the two countries’ warships facing off and sparking fears of open conflict.
Turkey has twice sent its seismic research vessel Oruc Reis to prospect for gas in an area Greece says is over its own continental shelf and where it claims exclusive rights. Turkey accuses Greece of trying to grab an unfair share of resources in the Mediterranean.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Tuesday that Turkey favors resolving disputes through negotiations but added the country would not “bow” to pressure.
“Let there be exploratory talks, let there be talks within NATO... Let’s resolve our problems by talking,” Akar said during a video conference with commanders. “But everyone must have seen and understood by now that we won’t bow to any fait accompli, any force or pressure.”
Greece has also said it is prepared to negotiate, but argues that it cannot do so while Turkey is actively prospecting in an area in which it claims exclusive rights.
Semini reported from Tirana, Albania. Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.