European Union foreign ministers on Monday agreed on economic sanctions over Turkey’s drilling off the coast of Cyprus, setting up the legal framework for travel bans and asset freezes but leaving names until a later date, Reuters reported.
The decision, reflecting a broader deterioration in EU ties with Turkey, aims to punish Ankara for violating Cyprus’ maritime economic zone by drilling off the divided island. It follows a separate decision to stop new arms sales by EU governments to Turkey over Ankara’s Oct. 9 incursion into Syria.
Turkey, which is a formal candidate to join the EU, says it is operating in waters on its own continental shelf or areas where Turkish Cypriots have rights.
EU ministers said in a statement that Monday’s decision “will make it possible to sanction individuals or entities responsible for or involved in unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Two EU diplomats said the staggered approach gives Turkey a chance to end what the EU says are “illegal” drilling activities before any measures enter into force.
If sanctions are imposed, the asset freezes and travel bans are likely to target the Turkish military and captains of the drilling ships, the diplomats said.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish occupation triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking efforts have failed, and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.