President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan downplayed the potential of European Union sanctions on Turkey, saying the country is used to such threats and sanctions would not cause a major problem.
“The EU’s proposed sanctions on Turkey would not be a major problem for us. The EU has been already imposing sanctions on Turkey from time to time for years now,” Erdoğan told reporters in a news conference at Esenboğa Airport in the capital Ankara ahead of his departure for an official visit to attend victory celebrations in Azerbaijan's capital Baku.
Noting that the bloc has been imposing sanctions on Turkey since 1963, Erdoğan said the EU has never been an honest partner.
“The EU has never kept its promises, but we have waited patiently since that day and continue to wait patiently,” Erdoğan said.
The president’s comments came as EU leaders are expected to hold a summit Thursday and decide whether to impose sanctions on Ankara or not.
France and Greece have particularly been urging the bloc to impose sanctions on the country over several issues, including the Eastern Mediterranean and Nagorno-Karabakh crises.
Touching upon Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ recent remarks on Athens turning the Turkey-Greece dispute into a Turkey-EU dispute, Erdoğan said Athens has always refrained from solving issues through dialogue.
“They are the ones who consistently leave the (negotiation) table,” the president said, adding that Greece has also turned down NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s call for dialogue.
Greek officials have not been attending the NATO-led deconfliction talks over the Eastern Mediterranean dispute since Oct. 9, according to Turkish officials.
“But we, on the other side, continue to stand up straight and will continue to do so,” Erdoğan said, as he pledged determination to preserve the interests of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“If Greece acts honestly, then we will continue to stay at the table,” he added.
On Thursday, EU leaders are expected to decide on imposing sanctions on Turkey to stop exploration in disputed waters in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiation. Yet, Turkey has also criticized the EU’s stance on the Eastern Mediterranean conflict, calling on the bloc to adopt a fair attitude regarding the dispute and to stop favoring Greece under the pretext of EU solidarity.
Germany, the current holder of the EU's six-month presidency, holds the key to whether sanctions go ahead. It had hoped to mediate between Athens and Ankara but was angered when Turkey resumed exploration for gas off Cyprus in October after a pause.
Ankara accuses Athens of pursuing maximalist policies in the region and underlines that its maritime claims constitute a violation of Turkey's sovereign rights.
Turkey has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration.
France and the European Parliament say it is time to punish Turkey, a NATO ally and candidate to join the EU.
'Biden no stranger, too early to make statement about ties'
Touching upon the future of Turkey-U.S. relations following the elections, Erdoğan said he is “no stranger” to President-elect Joe Biden.
“We have known each other closely since the Obama era. We are siding with the U.S. in NATO but do not approve of their recent policies,” Erdoğan said.
He continued by saying that it is still too early to make assumptions on the future of bilateral ties.
The president-elect has made controversial statements about Turkey and the Turkish government and came under fire for interfering in Turkey’s domestic affairs.
“The Trump administration must press Turkey to refrain from any further provocative actions in the region against Greece, including threats of force, to create the space for diplomacy to succeed,” Biden had said in a statement. He also called on Erdoğan to annul a decision to revert Hagia Sophia into a mosque and preserve its status as a museum.
In a video that surfaced in August, Biden said he would seek a regime change in Turkey and expressed his willingness to work with “opposition leadership” in the country to topple Erdoğan in Turkey's 2023 elections.
“We can support those elements of the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them and embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdoğan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process,” he said.
Another topic subject to scandalous statements by Biden was the issue of terrorist groups threatening Turkey’s national security. Biden expressed his unhappiness with Trump administration policies toward Turkey regarding Syria.
Trump “yielded” to Turkey, said Biden, adding: “The last thing I would've done is yielded to him with regard to the Kurds. The absolute last thing.”
Biden's remarks illicitly conflated “Kurds” with the PKK terrorist group's Syrian wing, the YPG, a group that attacks Turkish security forces, kidnaps children, including many Kurds, and has tried to set up a terrorist statelet along Turkey's borders.
Biden also criticized Ankara over its position in the ongoing Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, writing: “With casualties rapidly mounting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the Trump administration needs to call the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan immediately to de-escalate the situation. It must also demand others – like Turkey – stay out of this conflict.”
Regarding his visit to Azerbaijan, Erdoğan said Wednesday that Turkey will continue to side with the brotherly nation.
“By siding with Azerbaijan, Turkey contributed to the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian occupation. Our support to Azerbaijan will continue in the upcoming period,” he said.
Ankara has pledged its full support to Baku in its efforts to liberate its lands from Armenian occupation.
About 20% of Azerbaijan's territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades. In the most recent conflict that began on Sept. 27, Azerbaijan retook much of the land in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that it lost in a 1991-1994 war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and forced many more from their homes.
During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from the Armenian occupation.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had expressed multiple times during the most recent conflict that if there was to be peace, Baku wanted to see Ankara at the negotiating table as well. Following the Nov. 10 signing of a Russia-brokered agreement to end the fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution, Turkey agreed with Russia that its troops would also monitor the cease-fire. Last week, Ankara and Moscow signed an agreement to establish a joint observation center in Nagorno-Karabakh as soon as possible.