WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) — The Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU), meeting in Brussels, announced on Monday that they would impose some sanctions on Turkey because of its drilling for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Cyprus.
The EU measures are limited, but they come as the US is poised to impose penalties on Turkey for acquiring the advanced Russian air defense system, the S-400. Russian deliveries of the missile system began on Friday and have continued on a daily basis since.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Washington Post that US law “requires that there be sanctions [on Turkey], and I’m confident that we will comply with the law, and President Trump will comply with the law.”
However, just what penalty the US will impose remains unclear. On Monday, the Pentagon first announced there would be a press conference to explain the US response to Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400, before canceling the event. It marked the third time in two days that the Defense Department said it would hold a briefing on the issue, only to cancel it.
The EU measures, announced on Monday, involve suspending some $164 million in economic aid to Turkey, as well as halting discussion of an aviation agreement. In addition, the EU said it would suspend high-level meetings with Ankara and would ask the European Investment Bank to review its lending to the country, which amounted to $434 million last year, The New York Times reported.
Cyprus is divided ethnically between a smaller Turkish area in the northeast, some 38% of the island, while most of the country falls under the authority of the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia. The division goes back to 1974, after a short-lived military coup in Cyprus that aimed at unification with Greece. Turkey responded by invading the island, and it has remained divided along ethnic lines ever since.
In May, as the drilling was about to begin, State Department Spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, issued a statement describing Ankara’s “announced intentions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its Exclusive Economic Zone” as “highly provocative” and warning that it “risks raising tensions in the region.”
Earlier this month, Turkey began drilling in a second area, prompting the EU action on Monday.
“The council deplores that, despite the European Union’s repeated calls to cease its illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey continued its drilling operations west of Cyprus and launched a drilling operation northeast of Cyprus within Cypriot territorial waters,” the statement from the EU foreign ministers said.
Cyprus is an EU member, and Britain has two military bases in the south. British planes flying from those bases have been involved in the operations of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the EU decision, saying it would not affect Turkey’s determination to continue hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The EU has threatened more sanctions if the dispute continues.
Editing by Nadia Riva