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Europe Lines Up Sanctions Against Turkey Over Drilling In Cypriot Waters

Europe Lines Up Sanctions Against Turkey Over Drilling In Cypriot Waters

The European Union has moved a step closer to imposing sanctions on Turkish officials and companies over what it says is unauthorized drilling activity in Cypriot waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

On November 11, the Council of the E.U. announced it had adopted a framework for sanctions, which could include bans on individuals travelling to the E.U. and asset freezes for individuals and companies. In addition, E.U. citizens could be blocked from providing finance to those targeted by the sanctions.

The E.U. decision allows for measures to be adopted against three broad groups: individuals and companies involved in hydrocarbons drilling activity; those providing financial, technical or material support for the drilling; and other individuals and companies associated with them. As yet no individuals or companies have been named under the sanctions regime; unanimity among the 28 E.U. member states will be required for that to happen.

The decision follows a Council meeting on October 14 where the E.U. reaffirmed its solidarity with Cyprus, a member of the bloc.

The issue of Turkish exploration activity in Cypriot waters has been a running sore between Ankara and Brussels for most of this year, particularly since the Fatih drilling ship was deployed to the west of Cyprus in May. It was followed in July by drilling ship Yavuz, which moved into position off the Karpas peninsula. At times these ships have been accompanied by Turkish naval vessels.

Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez views Turkish drilling ship Yavuz in the [+] Mediterranean Sea from a helicopter on August 07, 2019. (Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Two other vessels, the Oruc Reis and the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, have been conducting seismic surveys in the same waters – the second of these two ships has been operating in Cypriot waters since October last year.

The E.U. says the Turkish ships are acting illegally by drilling in Cypriot waters without authorization. Turkey contends their activity is legal as it is taking place in waters claimed by the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus – a country which Turkey alone recognizes and which was formed following the invasion of the island by Turkish forces in 1974.

Despite efforts at mediation by Switzerland, there has been no sign of a compromise being struck between Brussels and Ankara.

The E.U. has previously suspended negotiations on a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and halted any further meetings of the E.U.-Turkey high-level dialogues. It has also cut back on aid and asked the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey.