FILE PHOTO: Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz sets sail in Izmit Bay, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, off the port of Dilovasi, Turkey, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz sets sail in Izmit Bay, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, off the port of Dilovasi, Turkey, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

EU signals sanctions on Turkey over 'illegal' Cyprus drilling: draft

Thu, Jul. 11, 2019
CAIRO – 11 July 2019: The European Union (EU) signaled on Thursday that it will put on hold high-level talks with Ankara and negotiations on an air transport agreement, as well as freezing funding for Turkey next year, over “illegal” drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus.

A draft EU statement stressed that the union would be ready to introduce more restrictive measures against Turkey should Ankara continue drilling.

The joint EU decision, which may still be changed, is to be discussed among national envoys in Brussels on Thursday with the aim of adopting it when the bloc’s foreign ministers meet on Monday.

“In light of Turkey’s continued and new illegal drilling activities, the (EU) decides to suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and agrees not to hold further meetings of the high-level dialogues for the time being,” the draft said.

Ankara on Wednesday rejected Greek and EU criticism that Turkish drilling off Cyprus was illegitimate. On the divided island, an internationally recognized government is part of the EU but Turkey backs a breakaway area.

Last month, EU leaders warned Turkey to end its gas drilling in disputed waters or face action from the bloc, after Greece and Cyprus pressed other EU states to speak out.

In May, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry warned Turkey against any attempt to destabilize the security and stability of the Middle East.

The Egyptian minister said the ministry has been following up with great concern the recent developments regarding Turkish plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus.

"We express grave concern over Turkey's announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus," EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini has said in a statement.

"In this context, we urgently call on Turkey to show restraint," she added, warning that the EU would "respond appropriately to any illegal action that violated Cyprus's rights".

Turkey already has a ship off Cyprus and Cyprus issued arrest warrants for its crew in June. 
 
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