Ahval: EU diplomats sceptical about Turkey’s intentions ahead of exploratory talks

Turkey must take concrete action to prove its intention in mending relations with the European Union, starting with a sincere effort to reconcile with Greece on Jan. 25, EU diplomats told Reuters.

Turkey and Greece are expected to resume exploratory talks on Monday to set aside their differences on a number of issues after a five-year break. The dialogue follows Turkey’s decision to stop its hydrocarbon exploration in disputed waters which angered Greece and Cyprus and ignited a political and military standoff in the eastern Mediterranean that roped in the EU.

Diplomats say it will need more than a shift in tone and the withdrawal of Turkey’s survey vessel from disputed waters to silence calls from some EU states for sanctions on Ankara, which EU leaders will discuss in March, Reuters reported on Sunday.

“I don’t see any great reconciliation to move us off the trajectory we are on. It is going to take a significant gesture from Turkey,” one diplomat in Brussels said. The source said there was no reason to be optimistic on the matter.

Turkey has long sought to join the EU, starting its membership talks in 2005, but the accession process is all but dead due to rising authoritarianism under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a deteriorating relationship with member states.

In recent years, the sides have quarrelled in a series of spats, including over refugees, human rights, Turkey’s military interventions and Cyprus, among other issues.

The Turkish government has expressed a willingness to improve EU ties since the bloc threatened sanctions in December.

But a French diplomatic source said it was too early to consider that Turkey had changed its ways. Paris would work with its partners on possible sanctions until Turkey’s words were met with concrete actions, they said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he saw a “window of opportunity” for improved ties but Ankara needed to discontinue its “line of confrontation” with the European bloc and seek dialogue.