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Turkish Erdogan calls for dialogue with EU amid tensions over gas exploration

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ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called on the European Union for dialogue, warning the bloc not to become a tool of enmity as tensions in the eastern Mediterranean escalate.

Turkey’s deployment of a vessel to search for gas in waters claimed by Greece sparked a fierce war of words with EU member states, which earlier this month extended sanctions on Ankara for another year.

The measures included the visa ban and the freezing of assets against those involved in contested gas exploration in the Mediterranean.

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“We expect the EU to keep its promises, not to discriminate [against] us or at least not become a tool to open enmities against our country, ”Erdogan said in a video speech at the congress of his ruling party.

“We do not see ourselves elsewhere than in Europe,” he added. “We plan to build our future with Europe.”

Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis, center, is surrounded by Turkish Navy ships west of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey August 10, 2020 (IHA via AP)

Erdogan’s message comes as EU leaders are set to decide at a December summit to impose new sanctions on recent Turkish activity.

Turkish exploration vessel Oruc Reis remains at the center of tensions and on Saturday Ankara extended its mission in the eastern Mediterranean until November 29, despite protests from Athens.

In the same speech, Erdogan said that Turkey wanted to “actively use its long and close alliance relations with the United States for a solution to regional and global problems”.

He was not among the first world leaders to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.

And while he maintained close ties with US President Donald Trump, there have been tensions between the two countries on several issues.

Turkey’s purchase of a high-tech Russian missile defense system angered Washington, while Ankara protested the US refusal to extradite a Muslim cleric Erdogan accuses of having staged a failed coup in 2016.

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