EU postpones announcement on Turkey sanctions to ‘de-escalate’ tensions

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini speaks to media as she arrives for the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council meeting in Luxembourg, 17 June 2019. [EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND]

The EU accepted on Monday (15 July) to postpone few hours the announcement of the sanctions against Turkey over the drilling in waters off Cyprus, following a request by Ankara not to interfere with the third anniversary of the failed coup against President Erdogan, EU officials and diplomats told

The sanctions were adopted by the member states’ ambassadors on Monday morning, in order to be rubber-stamped by the EU’s foreign affairs ministers in the afternoon.

Ankara was expecting the punitive measures, which includes a cut worth €146 million in EU funds from the pre-accession envelope, a freezing of the European Investment Bank’s activities in the country, stopping the cooperation under the EU-Turkey aviation agreement, and the cancellation of high-level EU-Turkey dialogues.

EU threatens Turkey with sanctions over Cyprus drilling

The European Union is set to curb contacts and funding for Ankara in retaliation for what it calls Turkey’s “illegal” drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus and stands ready to ramp up sanctions further, according to a draft statement.

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But the Turkish Foreign Affairs minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, told the European side over the weekend that, by announcing the sanctions on Monday, the EU would be acting with “insensitivity” towards the Turkish people.

For that reason, he asked for a postponement until Tuesday, in a gesture that would help to de-escalate the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Given the difficulty to keep the information from the public, the member states decided to delay the publication until 19.00 pm (Ankara time) on Monday, when the events to commemorate the coup are over, officials and diplomats confirmed.

An EU official said that member states had agreed on the need to adopt a “swift and credible” response to Turkey’s illegal activities.

But Cyprus, Greece and the UK were ready to accept a delay of the Council conclusions on Turkey’s drilling activities.

Some member states, however, noted that the Turkish side did not stop its drilling activities  over the weekend, and that sensitivity should have been reciprocal.

As part of the conclusions adopted, EU member states will develop further options for sanctions if Turkey continues to drill near the Cypriot coast.

Last June, the EU leaders mandated the Commission and the EU’s External Action Service with coming up with measures to respond to Turkey’s drilling activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

The Cypriot government pushed for adopting the sanction package by Foreign Affairs  ministers by mid-July, given that Turkey was already setting up new drilling platforms in the area.

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