The European Union is set to sanction Turkey over ‘illegal’ drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean offshore Cyprus. The EU will, among other sanctions, stop high-level dialogues with Turkey and will reduce pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020.
First, Reuters last week reported it had seen documents showing that the EU was preparing to sanction Turkey for the deployment of two drillships in waters claimed by Cyprus.
Then, the confirmation of the reports came on Monday, with the European Foreign Affairs Council issuing a statement where it said it “deplores that, despite the European Union’s repeated calls to cease its illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey continued its drilling operations west of Cyprus and launched a second drilling operation northeast of Cyprus within Cypriot territorial waters.”
It would be recalled that following the recent deployment of the Fatih drillship west of Cyprus, Turkish TPAO last week deployed the Yavuz drillship to east of Cyprus, claiming its drilling operations are legitimate as its drillships have been deployed in areas granted to Turkey by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – a self-declared state on Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.
The European Council said Monday that in light of Turkey’s “continued and new illegal drilling activities,” the council would suspend negotiations on the comprehensive air transport agreement, and won’t hold the Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being.
The council also endorsed the European Commission’s proposal to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020, which according to Euronews, amounts to €145.8 million.
The European Foreign Affairs Council also invited the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending.
“The Council remains seized of the matter and, in accordance with the European Council conclusions of 20 June, invites the High Representative and the Commission to continue work on options for targeted measures in light of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Council will closely monitor developments and will revert to this issue as appropriate,” the Council said.
Turkey: We will continue drilling
Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs said the measures by the EU will not in any way affect its drilling activities. Turkey also accused the EU of bias and of having no regard to Turkish Cypriots.
The Turkish foreign ministry said “The conclusions adopted by the EU Foreign Affairs Council yesterday (15 July) will in no way affect Turkey’s determination to continue its hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. These conclusions demonstrate how prejudiced and biased the EU is with regard to Cyprus as they make no reference to the Turkish Cypriots, who have equal rights over the natural resources of the Island, in total disregard of their existence in Cyprus.”
“As we have repeatedly emphasized in the past, our hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean have two dimensions: the protection of our rights on our continental shelf, and the protection of the equal rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who are co-owners of the Island, over the hydrocarbon resources of the Island.”
“Our country will continue to protect both its own rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots with determination, and will further boost its activities to this end. The EU, [which] has not kept its promises to the Turkish Cypriots since 26 April 2004, has no word to say to us in this regard.”