Ahead of Thursday's summit in Brussels, the European Union is considering the imposition of sanctions on Turkey over its illegal drilling activities within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In an announcement Tuesday, the General Affairs Council (GAC) invited the European Commission and the European External Action Service “to submit options for appropriate measures without delay.”
Speaking to journalists after the GAC meeting, EU Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn described Turkey’s activities as “unacceptable,” saying they move Ankara further away from the EU and raise the prospects of sanctions against it.
Greek diplomatic sources cited by the state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency Tuesday said it was “the first time the EU is deciding on measures against Turkey for violating international law and specifically for its activities in Cyprus’ EEZ.”
“Greece fought a hard battle at the GAC,” they added.
Reports also said that Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides had delivered an impassioned plea during the GAC meeting for the condemnation of Turkey and that he implied Cyprus could otherwise block conclusions by the GAC on EU enlargement.
Earlier, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who spoke on the phone with European Council President Donald Tusk, said the European Council should “unreservedly condemn the illegal actions of Turkey.”
“The prime minister stressed that the European Council should examine specific measures against those involved in these illegal activities, if Turkey insists on violating international law,” a statement from Tsipras’ office said.
Meanwhile, sources said that, with Greece’s support, Cyprus has conveyed the message to its EU partners that a simple verbal condemnation of Ankara will not go far enough and it is aiming for a “freeze” of sorts on Turkey’s EU custom union negotiations.
For its part, Turkey upped the ante, with Energy Minister Fatih Donmez confirming that the Fatih drillship in Cyprus’ EEZ has already begun drilling activities.
Moreover Ankara issued a navigational telex reserving an area between Rhodes and Kastellorizo for a military exercise.