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  • Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya (C) and Cyprio Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides (L) talk during the informal talks between the EU Foreign Ministers and their EU counterparts. Berlin, Germany. August 28, 2020.

    Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya (C) and Cyprio Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides (L) talk during the informal talks between the EU Foreign Ministers and their EU counterparts. Berlin, Germany. August 28, 2020. | Photo: EFA/EPA/Kay Nietfeld/POOL

Published 28 August 2020
Opinion

The European Union (EU) promised fresh sanctions unless progress is made amidst rising tensions with Cyprus and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. 

The EU's top diplomat, Joseph Borrell, said Friday in Berlin at a meeting of the EU foreign ministers that the bloc wanted to give "a serious chance to dialogue" but was firm in its support of member states Greece and Cyprus, which have raised concerns about a military standoff.

An ongoing dispute over maritime limits and glass drilling rights near the island of Cyprus has reignited tensions between Turkey and Greece, as the two neighbors have staged rival naval drills. The EU's sanctions could include individuals, ships, or access to European ports, meant to restrict Turkey's search for natural gas in contested waters. 

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Given the EU is Turkey's largest trading partner, Borrell stated that the EU could "go to measures related to sectoral activity...where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy," focusing on everything related to "activities we consider illegal."

Turkey, on the other hand, rejects the threats of more sanctions, claiming that Greece is not an archipelago state, and thus it is illegal under international law to have a continental shelf; Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy asserted it is beyond EU limits to criticize Turkey's hydrocarbon activities within its continental shelf. 

 

Its EU candidacy at risk, with the possibility of being withdrawn as a type of sanction, Turkey will hold gunnery exercises off the northeast coast of Cyprus on September 1 and 2, escalating tensions even further after dispatching a seismic survey vessel in a disputed area as a response to an agreement between Egypt and Greece to counter Turkey's claims to the region's energy resources.

The final decision on the sanctions will be decided on September 24, when EU government leaders will meet for a two-day summit. While Greece wants Turkey to commit to arbitration at the International Court of Justice if current dialogues do not succeed, the EU has offered Turkey greater access to the EU's market of 450 million consumers if it curtails its drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

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