EU breaks deadlock to impose sanctions on Belarus, Turkey on call Cyprus


European Union leaders broke a diplomatic standoff on Friday to impose sanctions on Belarus, after reassuring the Republic of Cyprus that the bloc would also punish Turkey if it continued to drill for oil and gas in the areas disputed Mediterranean.The deal, reached after hours of negotiations, will impose sanctions on around 40 officials accused of rigging the August presidential election in Belarus, though the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, is not among those retained.

” No. Lukashenko is not on the current list, but of course we will follow the situation, we will follow the developments, ”said Charles Michel, President of the European Council, after meeting with EU leaders.

Nevertheless, the deal allows the EU to keep its promise to support pro-democracy protesters in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and to regain some credibility after weeks of delays.

“The European Union is taking action against those who oppose democracy,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after tense talks between the 27 EU member states that dragged on past midnight. “I think this is an important signal.”

While Britain and Canada have already announced sanctions, the standoff in the EU, where decisions require unanimity, has dented the credibility of the bloc’s foreign policy, diplomats say.

Sanctions in favor of Belarusian protesters were postponed by Cyprus, which wanted action against Turkey for its exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean [File: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP Photo]

Cyprus, one of the EU’s smallest countries, had blocked action against Belarus for a month, insisting that sanctions also be imposed on Turkey, which has stepped up oil and gas exploration in the areas disputed Mediterranean.

After a short war in 1974, the island was divided between the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government – a member of the EU – in the south, and a self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot administration in the north, which is backed by Turkey.

Germany has opposed a firm position on Turkey, which is both a candidate for EU membership and a member of NATO.

‘Toolbox’ prêt

A sign that the diplomatic impasse is easing – at least between Greece and Turkey – NATO announced Thursday that the two countries had put in place a “military deconfliction mechanism” to avoid accidental clashes at sea.

The compromise reached at the summit which satisfied Cyprus was an agreement to review Turkey’s behavior in December and impose sanctions if its “provocations” did not stop.

“In the case of such renewed Ankara actions, the EU will use all its available instruments and options,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday after the summit concluded. “We have a toolkit that we can apply immediately.”

“The EU issues a clear threat of sanctions against Turkey if it continues to violate international law,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter after the meeting.

Michel, of the European Council, called this approach a “double strategy” vis-à-vis Ankara, offering closer relations on trade and other fronts but bearing the threat of sanctions if it fails to defuse tensions in the Mediterranean.

“It was all Merkel could take,” a European diplomat said after the talks. “She felt that the Union should give Turkey a chance for a few more weeks. But Turkey has been put on notice and the ball is in their court. “


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