NICOSIA- With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacting furiously, the European Council – made up of the leaders of the bloc’s 28 countries – put out a press release denouncing drilling in Cypriot sovereign waters after two foreign companies licensed to hunt there said they would pull out, fearing Turkey.
The EU council condemned “illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean,” and approved looking at more sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freeze on Turkish officials involved in approving the drilling although it was ordered by Erdogan who has defied Cyprus, other EU soft sanctions and the United States.
Those who could be affected in Turkey by sanctions would include, the statement said, persons or entities providing financial, technical or material support for the ..drilling activities; persons or entities associated with them,” but said they wouldn’t be named for now.
Cyprus’ legitimate government, a member of the EU that Turkey has been trying to join for 14 years but getting nowhere – and refusing to recognize Cyprus while barring its ships and planes – had issued international arrest warrants against the crews of the drill ships but didn’t use them.
The EU Council decision came after a separate decision to stop new arms sales by EU governments to Turkey over its invasion of northern Syria
“I am satisfied with the decision of the EU, which is actively supporting the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and legality in Cyprus’ sea,” President Nicos Anastasiades said after the decision although he had pleaded as well to the United Nations, which ignored him.
The EU chiefs said that their act “will make it possible to sanction individuals or entities responsible for or involved in unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean,” but want to give Erdogan one more chance to back off.
If sanctions are imposed, the asset freezes and travel bans are likely to target the Turkish military and captains of the drilling ships, they said, the Cyprus Mail reported.
Erdogan, who already said he would unleash on Greek islands millions of refugees and migrants who went to his country trying to get to the EU if he’s pushed too far, got even angrier over the EU Council’s decision and said he would sent Islamic State terrorists to Europe too.
Speaking to reporters before a visit to the United States, Erdogan also said Turkey would continue repatriating foreign Islamic State (ISIS) militants to their home countries, even if those countries decline to take them back right now.
Erdogan warned EU countries: “You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which holds so many IS members in prison and controls them in Syria.”
Anastasiades offered to share 30 percent of any potentially lucrative revenues with Turkish-Cypriots who’ve occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion but that was rejected by Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci who want their side to take a role in the licensing of foreign companies to hunt for oil and gas.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)