EU splintering: Greece could DESTROY emergency talks as Turkey row divides bloc

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Athens is furious with Brussels’ refusal to make a genuine intervention after Turkish ships continued to operate in disputed maritime territory on Greece’s continental shelf. The anger could spill over into a special meeting of EU leaders to discuss the bloc’s reaction to the election scandal in Belarus. They will begin work on a new list of targets in Belarus for a new round of sanctions in response to Alexander Lukashenko’s violent post-election crackdown.

European Council President Charles Michel has decided to push similar talks in response to Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean back until next month.

Greece last week refused to support a joint statement being drawn up by EU foreign ministers after a dispute over its wording with Germany.

The Greeks insisted on a much tougher line against Ankara and vetoed the declaration on Belarus.

A European source said Athens has “other priorities with Turkey and the Belarus issue is not the most important” in the Greek capital.

Announcing the special video conference, Mr Michel said: “The people of Belarus have the right to decide on their future and freely elect their leader. Violence against protesters is unacceptable and cannot be allowed.”

An EU source said the “situation is evolving rapidly” and justified the emergency talks to “send an important message of solidarity to the people of Belarus”.

Vladimir Putin has criticised the EU’s support for the Belarusian protests during talks with senior leaders from the bloc.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: “When will he call on the EU to be mobilised in support of hundreds of thousands of ‘Yellow Vests’ demonstrators who peacefully seek to ensure respect for their rights, freedoms and sovereignty?

“When will the EU stop waiting for calls from presidents of its member states and start to mobilise proactively in support of protests held on its own territory?

“This is what hypocrisy is.”

Despite the warning, EU leaders have been ordered to tell Moscow to not meddle in the Belarus election fiasco.

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said the bloc should send a strong message to the Kremlin to discourage any military intervention in Belarus.

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“I hope it’s not realistic, I hope it will not happen, but I cannot exclude, I cannot deny because it is publicly discussed, and definitely we should keep this in mind and send a very clear message that is not tolerable if Russia decides to do that,” he told the Guardian.

EU leaders are expected to hold talks on possible sanctions against Turkey at another summit in September.

Turkey refused to budge in the row, and has announced drilling would continue off the coasts of Greece and Cyprus.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We will not back down in the face of sanctions and threats.

“We will never bow to banditry on our continental shelf.”

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The EU has urged Turkey to “immediately” stop exploring for gas in the disputed area of the Mediterranean.

Ankara’s refusal to back down “regrettably fuels further tensions and insecurity in the eastern Mediterranean”, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

“This action runs counter and undermines efforts to resume dialogue and negotiations, and to pursue immediate de-escalation, which is the only path towards stability and lasting solutions, as reiterated by EU foreign ministers last Friday,” he said.

“I call on the Turkish authorities to end these activities immediately and to engage fully and in good faith in a broad dialogue with the European Union.”

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