İrem UZUN -TDO- On Friday, the European Union has threatened Turkey with fresh sanctions - including tough economic measures - unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. Both countries have also been carrying out military exercises in the region, sparking concerns about the possibility of a confrontation.

Tensions between the neighbors have spiraled in recent weeks, with Ankara continuing to drill for oil and natural gas in waters contested by Greece near the island of Cyprus. Greece's foreign minister has told that the threat of sanctions is "a success for our common European family." But Turkey says targeting its "legitimate" search for gas in the Mediterranean will only increase tensions. Turkey, which rejects Greece's maritime claims and says its drilling activities fall within its own exclusive economic zone, said the EU had "no authority" to demand it stop a "legitimate" search for resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Commission’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell said that in the absence of “progress with Turkey,” to develop a list of further sanctions against the country over its recent activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. “We are clear and determined in defending European Union interests, in solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Turkey has to abstain from unilateral actions. This is a basic element to allow dialogue to advance,” Borrell told a press conference following the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.

EU leaders will discuss whether to impose the additional measures at a summit in Brussels on Sept 24-25 should Turkey fail to stop what the Europeans consider to be “illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean. But Turkey said the EU was only making matters worse by brandishing sanctions and it vowed to defend its rights.

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