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Politics

Cyprus, EU Cheer Pullout of Turkish Energy Drill Ship

Apparently satisfied that warnings of more sanctions had worked, the European Union welcomed Turkey withdrawing an energy research vessel that was drilling off Cyprus in defiance of soft penalties from the bloc.

The withdrawal though coincided with the EU threatening stronger measures over Turkey's plans to also hunt for oil and gas off Greek islands, Turkey also pulling out an energy research vessel and warships near Kastellorizo.

That was done, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who vowed drilling would continue at some point – to give diplomacy a chance, Greek and Turkish officials scheduled to meet at some point in Ankara.

That would be to discuss boundaries in the waters of the East Mediterranean and Aegean, with Turkey disputing parts of Greece's Continental Shelf and planning to drill off a number of Greek islands, including Crete.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades threatened to veto EU sanctions on some Belarus officials for that government's rigging re-elections to insure victory for President Alexander Lukashenko – exempted from penalties.

Anastasiades said he wouldn't go along unless the EU toughened sanctions on Turkey but gave in under pressure from other leaders of the 27-member bloc and accepted that Erdogan would be given yet another warning instead.

The Turkish drill ship the Yavuz left the area where it was operating southwest of Cyprus and reached Turkey's coast for maintenance, leading EU officials to say it would ease tension for now.

A spokesman for the EU executive, the European Commission, said: "The departure constitutes another welcome step towards de-escalation … and we hope for similar and further moves in this direction."

"It's an important signal," he told a regular briefing of journalists although Erdogan said the ship would return at some point no matter the outcome of talks with Greek officials, Turkey refusing to even speak to any from Cyprus.

Turkey, which has been trying to join the EU since 2005, won't recognize the legitimate government of Cyprus, which is a member, bars its ships and planes and has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Turkey also doesn't recognize parts of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and has been drilling in Cypriot waters, Cyprus powerless to stop it and the EU putting penalties only on two executives of Turkey's state-run oil company.

EU leaders assured Cyprus the bloc would punish Turkey if it continues drilling in disputed Mediterranean areas, after resisting Cypriot calls to impose sanctions, said Reuters.

That has been said before but not done, leaving Cyprus to twist in the wind, its only weapon being a veto over foreign policy issues that require unanimous consent from all 27 countries in the EU.

Another Turkish energy vessel, the the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa remains off southeastern Cyprus and its operations there have been extended to Oct. 18, the EU doing nothing about that.

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