EU diplomats appear dismayed. Two seemingly unrelated international crises have just been linked by the threat of the Cypriot state to use its veto power to block the sanctions package.
On Monday, the foreign ministers of the EU member states were to meet for what seemed like a simple formality. Supplementing an earlier list of people sanctioned with forty other names of Belarusian officials accused by the EU of falsifying last month’s elections and organizing a brutal crackdown on protests. Monday’s meeting, however, no longer seems a formality, according to The Guardian.
“The situation is very serious. They simply took hostage the sanctions on Belarus, “said an EU diplomat who wished to remain anonymous to the British daily. The proposal for Cypriot diplomacy is simple: Turkey’s drilling in the eastern Mediterranean can no longer continue; therefore, sanctions for Belarus will only be adopted when the EU adopts similar sanctions for Turkey
At a meeting of EU member states’ ambassadors on Wednesday, several diplomats warned Cyprus not to turn sanctions on Belarus into a “compromise issue”. “Everyone is jumped out, everyone is angry. I am convinced that these actions could have consequences for Cyprus, “a second source in EU diplomacy told The Guardian.
After weeks of simple statements of solidarity with anti-Lukashenko protesters, any delay in adopting sanctions would affect the EU’s credibility. On Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced that the EU must take a “clear and firm position” when it comes to its values, “whether we are talking about Hong Kong, Moscow or Minsk”. “The EU is on the side of the people of Belarus,” she said.
EU relations with Turkey are set to be discussed next week at an extended summit on foreign policy issues overlooked during the year as a result of member countries’ focus on fighting the coronavirus. Cyprus and Greece are leading the charge against Turkey, deeply dissatisfied with Ankara’s operations in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasdiades said on Wednesday that the EU “should use all the means at its disposal to make Turkey give up its illegal activities”. Referring to the situation in Belarus, he argued that the EU should not have double standards when it comes to dealing with inappropriate actions by leaders outside European borders.
On the other hand, Germany leads the group of countries that do not want to escalate the sanctions imposed on the Ankara regime. The reason is not difficult to detect – tensions with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan must be avoided in order to save the 2016 agreement on migrants. According to the latest diplomatic statements in Ankara, both Turkey and Cyprus have pledged to begin a series of initial bilateral talks to resolve the crisis.
The European Union on Wednesday demanded the departure of the Turkish ship Yavuz, carrying out drilling activities in the maritime waters of Cyprus, to put an end to tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a video conference that Turkey will defend its interests in the Mediterranean.