European foreign ministers on Monday upped the ante against Ankara, heralding sanctions against companies and individuals involved in illegal prospecting for oil and gas in Cyprus’ territorial waters while also committing to restricting arms exports to Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria.
Following a session of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg, the bloc’s 28 ministers drafted sanctions against firms and individuals involved in the illegal activities of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and said they were poised to implement them. The council called on EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and the European Commission to make specific proposals.
The move was welcomed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who said the EU “has spoken clearly about the issue of the violation of the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus.” He added that he was “extremely happy” that the bloc had taken a step further from previous decisions.
Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides also expressed his satisfaction, saying the move was “a clear message to Turkey that its actions are condemnable but also to all those involved in the illegal activities that their actions have consequences.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry described the EU’s moves as “unacceptable” and its stance as “biased against Turkey, unprecedented and not in keeping with international law,” adding that Ankara would re-examine its cooperation with the EU in certain areas.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle published on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara did not fear threats of embargoes which, he claimed, would “only strengthen” Turkey. He added that Ankara’s warnings to send millions of refugees to Europe if the EU continues to consider sanctions over Turkey’s operation in Syria and drilling off Cyprus were “not a bluff.”
In a speech in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not halt its offensive in Syria, which he said was as “vital” to Turkey as as its military invasion of Cyprus in 1974.