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Politics

Cyprus Says EU’s Turkey Appeasement Policy Failing

European Union soft sanctions against Turkey for drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus aren't working, only emboldening President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to keep it up, the island's legitimate government has complained.

Turkey has an energy vessel in a part of the island's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) despite vehement complaints from the office of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades who had said it amounts to a new invasion, over energy.

That was in reference to Turkey's occupation of the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion with the implicit support of the United States which didn't stop it.

The EU's response has been to issue mild penalties, including against executives of Turkey's state-run oil company, which amount to essentially nothing and have not been a deterrent, and exempting Erdogan who's allowed to come to Brussels.

EU officials, critics have said, are reluctant to provoke Erdogan in fear he will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc through Greek islands, as he's already allowed human traffickers to keep operating during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal.

"Unfortunately we are observing a diffidence from the European Union in taking on a substantive role and adopting policies of deterrence," Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Koushios told reporters.

He said tweets and statements of solidarity and support are toothless and not enough, at the same time Anastasiades' repeated entreaties to the United Nations to get involved have gone nowhere as he was ignored.

"The policy of appeasement and the messages of support are not enough to discourage Turkey from its illegal actions,” said Koushios. The EU, he said, needed to have a "more intense" presence in the Eastern Mediterranean without saying what that was. 

Nearly four million refugees and migrants are in Turkey where they went, fleeing war and strife in their homelands and using the country as a jumping-off point to get to the EU before the borders were closed to them.

That has left them no choice other than to reach Greece and seek asylum, the country overwhelmed with more than 100,000 of them, and trickles still coming during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Cypriot government, with the EU still sitting on its hands as Turkey also moved to drill off Greek islands, blasted the “policy of appeasement” that's apparently aimed at trying to get Erdogan to back off, which hasn't worked yet.

The statement came after the EU's foreign chiefs, in a teleconference, again backed away from a confrontation with Erdogan even though his provocations have Greece and Turkey at a flash point with fears of a conflict or war.

Without a military, the EU relies on what it calls “soft power,” trying to use persuasion to make authoritarian leaders soften their stances and its leaders are reluctant to engage them before usually giving in, issuing only statements ranging from “concern” to “deep concern” to “grave concern.”

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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