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EU targets Turkey's oil drilling off Cyprus

November 11, 2019

EU foreign ministers have approved a new mechanism to sanction entities involved in unauthorized oil drilling in Cypriot waters. But Turkey can avoid financial penalties if it ends its illegal drilling, diplomats said.

Turkish police officer patrols the dock, backdropped by the drilling ship 'Yavuz' that was dispatched to the Mediterranean, at the port of Dilovasi
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/L. Pitarakis

The EU on Monday adopted a sanctions regime targeting Turkey over its unauthorized gas drilling in Cypriot waters.

EU foreign ministers backed the mechanism as a way "to sanction individuals or entities responsible for, or involved in, unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean."

Authorities will now have time to develop a list of people and entities to target. European officials did not set a timeline for implementation, giving Turkey an opportunity to back down from drilling in the vicinity before sanctions could be enforced.

However, Turkey has long argued that it is drilling within its territorial rights — or those of Turkish Cypriots. If sanctions go through, it is likely they would target the captains of drilling vessels or military officials linked to drilling activities.

Read more: Rattling sabers in the eastern Mediterranean

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez views Turkey's drill-ship 'Yavuz' operating in the Mediterranean Sea from a helicopter
Turkish officials have even visited ships drilling off the coast of CyprusImage: picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/C. Gunes

Divided waters

The sanctions regime marks another break in EU-Turkish relations. Last month, European countries put restrictions on arms sales to Turkey, a NATO ally, due to a military incursion into northern Syria targeting Kurds.

The EU had previously enacted disciplinary measures aimed at discouraging Turkish drilling off the Cypriot coast, including suspending talks on an air transport agreement and reducing financial assistance to the country in 2020.

Earlier this year, Cyprus invited the Turkish government to discuss defining exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf, a move that found support among other EU foreign ministers.

Read more: Gas, pipeline dreams and gunboat diplomacy in Mediterranean

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ls/rt (Reuters, AP)