Turkey embarked on an August 10 military-backed hydrocarbon exploration venture in the waters between Greece and Cyprus, exacerbating tensions in a strategic corridor in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece responded with naval exercises to defend its maritime territory, which were subsequently reinforced by the deployment of French frigates and fighter jets.
The dispute among NATO members highlighted growing geopolitical risks in the region as Turkey pursues more aggressive nationalist policies under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell has also raised the possibility of sanctions against Ankara, but so far Paris has been unable to persuade other EU countries to join in its response tough.
EU foreign ministers agreed at their informal meeting in Berlin at the end of August on a sanctions list against Turkey in case Ankara does not defuse its actions in the increasingly tense Eastern Mediterranean , including illegal oil and gas drilling.
A first phase would concern the Turkish energy sector, that is to say the companies involved in illegal drilling in the eastern Mediterranean in the exclusive economic zones of Greece and Cyprus.
Le Drian urged Erdogan to start discussions on his ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean before the European Council meeting.
“It is up to the Turks to show that this question … can be discussed,” he told France Inter radio. “If so, we can create a virtuous circle for all the issues on the table.”
While he declined to specify the type of sanctions Ankara could face, he said there was a “full package of measures.”
“We’re not short of options, and he knows it,” Le Drian said of Erdogan.
The European Council will meet on September 24-25.