The European Union foreign ministers signed a legal framework on Monday November 11th to facilitate imposing sanctions against Turkey over its gas excavations activities off the coast of Cyprus. The resolution aims to punish Turkey for violating Cyprus’ economic maritime zone by drilling off the coast of the divided island.
The move reflects the deterioration of EU relations with Turkey and follows the EU’s separate decision to halt new arms sales from EU governments to Turkey due to its October 9th incursion into north-eastern Syria, where it has targeted Kurdish fighters.
With this step, the European Union will be able to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on individuals and entities connected with the exploration activities in the territorial waters of Cyprus, according to an EU statement,
Turkey, which is officially a candidate for EU membership, insists that it has the right to continue exploration in the energy fields licensed to them by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is not recognised internationally.
Cyprus has been divided in two since 1974: an independent south with a Greek majority and a member of the European Union since 2004, and a northern Turkish part whose sovereignty is recognised only by Turkey. Experts believe there are 227 billion cubic metres of natural gas reserves off Cyprus.
EU relations with Nato member Turkey have deteriorated after its years-long bid to join the European family faltered. With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign against opponents, many EU states say Turkey is no longer eligible to be a candidate because it does not adhere to democratic standards.
In response to the EU’s intention to impose sanctions against Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to blackmail when he spoke with European countries, this time using Isis prisoners imprisoned in his country for political gain, as he clearly spoke about ‘opening gates’ for Isis members to head to the EU.
The new threat by Erdogan that appeared on Tuesday came a few days after the renewed threat to European countries to open doors to immigrants to Europe.
These statements show Erdogan's reliance on extortion methods in managing relations with European countries, rather than diplomacy and negotiations, even though the EU struck an agreement with his country on immigrants years ago.
According to The Associated Press, Erdogan said that his country will continue to release Isis prisoners that are European nationals and force them to return their country of origin even if the latter refused.
Erdogan's speech comes a day after the European Union revealed its intention to impose sanctions on Turkey because of gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea off Cyprus, a member of the European Union, with Brussels stressing that the Turkish exploration is illegal.
Turkish exploration ships, accompanied by warships, have been excavating this summer in waters where Cyprus says it has exclusive economic rights, but Turkey says it protects the rights of the Turkish Republic of Cyprus, which is not recognised internationally.
EU foreign ministers adopted on Monday a mechanism that enables "the punishment of individuals or entities responsible for unauthorised hydrocarbon exploration activities".
EU Member States can now provide the names of those they believe should be included in the sanctions’ arena.
” You have to review your position on Turkey, which holds many Isis members in prison and controls them in Syria,” Erdogan said.
”These gates will be opened and Isis members will be sent to you on a continuous basis, then you can take care of your problem," he added.
Turkey said last week about 1,200 Isis militants were in Turkish jails.
From time to time, Turkey’s Erdogan appears in the media to threaten and blackmail Europe about dumping Syrian refugees on Europe unless he receives aid and support for the safe area he seeks to establish on his country's southern border.
In March 2016, the EU-Turkey agreement to stop the flow of migrants into bloc countries came into force.
The deal was meant to stop one of the most pressing problems for the European Union: the exodus of millions of asylum seekers from countries in turmoil.
A spokeswoman for the European Union confirmed a few months ago that Turkey was granted €5.6 billion under the agreement, adding that "the remaining balance is scheduled to be sent soon".