EU Announces Sanctions on Turkey over Cyprus
The European Council announced July 16 its first "sanctions" against Turkey, in response to what it described as Turkey's "continued illegal drilling operations" within "Cyprus' territorial waters", with a warning that it is continuing to look at options for further "targeted measures."
But Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reportedly responded that the sanctions would be impossible to implement and warned: "If you [EU] take such decisions against Turkey, we will increase activities [in the eastern Mediterranean]. The same day, Turkish media reported an unconfirmed gas discovery off Cyprus.
The council said it had suspended negotiations with Turkey on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, and had halted all high level dialogues with Ankara "for the time being" as well as reduced pre-accession assistance to Turkey and "inviting" the European Investment Bank (EIB) to "review" its lending activities in Turkey.
The council also cautioned that it is continuing to "work on options for targeted measures" in response to Turkey's drilling activities but did not specify what measures it is considering. The announced measures were included in a list of five "conclusions" formally adopted by the council in response to Turkey's continued drilling operations.
The council also stressed its commitment to supporting UN sponsored negotiations for a settlement on the divided island and stated that it considered Turkey's actions to be illegal, and called on Ankara to "act in a spirit of good neighbourliness and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus in accordance with international law."
However it also confirmed that it "welcomed the invitation by the government of Cyprus to negotiate with Turkey", noting that "delimitation of exclusive economic zones and continental shelf should be addressed through dialogue and negotiation."
Ankara has always refused to recognise Cyprus' unilateral declaration of its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), pointing out that maritime boundaries can only be delineated through bilateral agreement, and that the north western part of Cyprus' claimed EEZ overlaps with Turkey's claim for its extended continental shelf.
The council did not comment on the proposal announced July 13 by the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus for joint management of hydrocarbon exploration and development within the maritime borders of Cyprus.
The Turkish foreign ministry described the council's plans as "the latest examples of how the Greek Cypriot-Greek duo abuse their EU memberships for the sake of their maximalist positions and how other EU countries are instrumental to this end."
The ministry stressed Turkey's intention to protect its own rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots, ruling out any possibility of entering discussions with the government of Cyprus over maritime boundaries before a general settlement has been reached on Cyprus itself.
The island has been divided into two de-facto states since Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974. The subsequently declared Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, while the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus has been a member of the European Union since 2004, despite Turkey's objections.
Turkey claims discovery
Turkey's state upstream operator TPAO has two drill ships, the Fatih and the Yavuz, and the seismic survey vessel, Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa operating within Cyprus' claimed EEZ. The Fatih began drilling 75 km west of the island in early May while the Yavuz took up position east of the island early July and has yet to start drilling. The survey ship Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa is surveying south of the island in block 8 of Cyprus' EEZ.
A July 16 report in Cypriot newspaper Kibris Postasi quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that the Fatih had discovered a gas reservoir and that an announcement on the find was imminent. Turkish officials were unavailable for comment at time of press but previous official announcements have indicated that any gas discovered by its drill ships would to be piped to Turkey for use in the domestic market.