Cyprus Mail
Our View

Our View: Highly unlikely sanctions imposed on TPAO officials will stop Turkey’s drilling

The Turkish drillship Yavuz

THE government has delivered on its promise for ‘targeted measures’ against individuals involved in Turkey’s illegal drilling in the Cypriot EEZ. The EU’s official journal published the names of two senior officials on the Turkish Petroleum Corporations TPAO, on whom an EU-wide travel ban and asset freeze were imposed; also EU individuals or legal entities are banned from making funds available to the two men.

Both are involved in the offshore operations. One is Vice-President, Assistant General Manager and member of the board of TPAO while the other is in charge of planning, directing and implementing the corporation’s hydrocarbon exploration activities. The EU regulation stipulated that the names of the two men should be included in the text sanctioned by the European Council, “in the light of Turkey’s continued unauthorised drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Although the government had secured the imposition of sanctions, these were limited to two individuals and were not extended to legal entities. Logically speaking, sanctions should have been imposed on TPAO the drilling vessels of which are carrying our gas explorations in the Cyprus EEZ.  It appears the European Council was more concerned with showing some form of solidarity with one of its member states than punishing Turkey for its illegal activities.

Still, something is better than nothing, and for the Cyprus government this was a moral victory, confirmation that it is in the right and that Turkey’s claims are without legitimacy, at least for the EU. The practical benefits are much more difficult to pinpoint, if they exist, because it is highly unlikely that sanctions imposed on two individuals will stop Turkey’s drilling. Is it possible the EU would expand the sanctions if Turkey continued its drilling operations?

One daily newspaper said the “list of targeted measures has huge political significance,” and cited the reaction of President Erdogan as proof, quoting him saying, “in the face of the two Turkish citizens, it is being attempted to condemn the policy exercised by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.” Of course, Erdogan would react angrily to the targeted measures – did anyone expect him to accept the sanctions gracefully – but this does not have huge political significance nor should it be seen as an end in itself.

The government should be thinking ‘what next?’ The targeted measures provide us with a moral victory, but we already have too many of those – the UN resolutions on Famagusta are a prime example – and they do not amount to much, practically speaking.


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