The European Union will consider “all options” to respond to Turkey’s illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, EU Council Charles Michel said on Wednesday, following an emergency summit of the bloc’s leaders.

The heads of the EU27 states held a virtual meeting to discuss the next steps for Belarus, where police clashes with protesters are shaking the capital, Minsk, after a disputed election showed long-time ruler Aleksander Lukashenko winning a sixth term as Belarus’ President.

After a 3-hour summit, EU leaders agreed to “shortly” impose sanctions against a “substantial” number of individuals responsible for violence, repression and the falsification of election results in Belarus.

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The issue of sanctions was also on the table concerning Turkey’s illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, as several member states raised the matter during the virtual summit.

The leaders expressed their “increased concerns” about the growing tensions between Greece and Turkey and stressed the need to “de-escalate” them, with the heads of EU institutions saying that what matters is the “willingness of all sides to engage in a problem-solving dialogue.”

Sanctioning Ankara for its illegal hydrocarbons search in their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is Greece’s and Italy’s main request. Although no particular mention to sanctions was made in the summit’s conclusions, the leaders’ joint statement reads that “all options will be on the table,” as they are set to meet in late September for a special summit on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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“We expressed our full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and recalled and reaffirmed our previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities. We agreed to revert to these issues during our meeting in September. All options will be on the table,” read the summit’s conclusions.

Earlier in the week, Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias had called on the EU to “step up” its response to Turkey’s aggression, citing it is a matter that concerns the EU27 and not just some member states.

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“The escalation of Turkey’s aggression is directed against the European Union and consequently, it follows that Europe’s response must also be stepped up in order to counter it,” Dendias said following talks with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides.


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