EU sanctions in Belarus questionable as Cyprus demands action against Turkey | World news

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Cyprus threatens to block European Union sanctions against Belarus because the bloc has refused to take similar measures against Turkey following a long-standing dispute over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean.The collision between two foreign policy crises unrelated to the EU’s gates – the standoff between Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and the people, and rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over Turkish drilling – has appalled European diplomats.

Now, the threat of a veto from one of the club’s smaller member states threatens to derail EU plans to sanction 40 Belarusian officials accused of falsifying last month’s election results or orchestrating a brutal crackdown on them. protesters that followed.

EU foreign ministers are set to meet on Monday, as it was hoped they would approve a move to impose an asset freeze and travel bans on 40 people, doubling the number of officials on a list black on a previous list. The legal deal was seen as a mere formality following a political decision last month by EU ministers to impose sanctions.

Two diplomatic sources confirmed to the Guardian that Cyprus is blocking EU action against Belarus because it wants EU sanctions imposed on Turkey for its drilling activities in the Mediterranean. “It’s serious,” said a European diplomat. “They basically took Belarusian sanctions hostage.”

At a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday, several diplomats spoke to warn Cyprus not to turn Belarusian sanctions into “a transactional issue”. A second EU source said Cyprus was alone, adding: ‘Everyone is pissed off [off], everyone is annoyed. I’m sure it could have consequences [for Cyprus]. »

Any failure or delay in the deal on the sanctions promised in Belarus would damage the credibility of the EU after weeks of noble declarations of solidarity. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the EU must take “a clear and swift position” on values, “whether in Hong Kong, Moscow or Minsk,” saying the EU was “on the side of the Belarusian people”.

EU relations with Turkey will be discussed by EU leaders next week at a face-to-face summit. Much of the rally will be devoted to foreign policy issues that were overlooked earlier in the year as the EU scrambled to deal with the coronavirus.

Cyprus and Greece have been leading the sanctions charge against Turkey, since Ankara launched search and drilling operations to search for gas reserves in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday that the EU should use “all means at our disposal” to get Turkey to give up its “illegal” activities. In an allusion to Belarus, he said the EU should not set “a double standard” in how the bloc chooses to deal with inappropriate activities inside and outside its borders.

But many EU leaders are opposed to hitting Ankara with new sanctions after the EU imposed sanctions on two people linked to the drilling earlier this year. Germany, which mediates between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece, is particularly keen to avoid escalating tensions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, co-architect of the 2016 EU-Turkey migration agreement.

Earlier this week, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the EU and Turkey had reached “a turning point in our relations”. He called on Turkey to withdraw the Yavuz drillship from its position near Cyprus, after Ankara announced it was extending the ship’s mission until October 12.

Greek and Turkish leaders are now engaged in bilateral exploratory talks, Erdo spokesmangsaid Thursday.

Ibrahim Kalin added that ErdogAn ‘s decision to return the Turkish study vessel Oruc Reis to port for routine maintenance was “an opportunity not to be wasted”, indicating that the decision is seen as a major diplomatic gesture to create space for the recovery. talks.

Kalin said the climate was right for the exploratory talks: “I think we have come to a good understanding of the steps to be taken in the coming weeks to resume these talks.”

If the Cypriot veto is lifted, diplomats say sanctions against 40 Belarusian officials could come into force within days.

The current list does not include Lukashenko, includes the Guardian. The Baltic states, which have all adopted national sanctions that include Lukashenko, have asked the EU to include him on the sanctions list.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned this week that if violence and oppression continued, the sanctions list could be extended to others, including Lukashenko.

The man, often described as “Europe’s last dictator”, was on a previous list of EU sanctions, but was ousted in 2016, when the EU swept almost all sanctions against his government, believing that he was about to reform.

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