EU foreign ministers have called for the preparation of an options paper for sanctions against Turkey in specific economic sectors, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.
According to the minister, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on Monday asked the European External Action Service (EEAS) to prepare the paper, a document with choices on sanctions in various sectors such as in economy, energy, tourism, and so on.
Christodoulides told state broadcaster CyBC radio that Nicosia also submitted a few proposals as regards additional measures against persons and companies involved in drilling activities off Cyprus, which will be discussed on Thursday at the competent working group of the council.
EU High Commissioner Josep Borrell said after the FAC meeting on Monday that the bloc will be looking at further options to ease tensions with Turkey, including additional listings within the sanctions framework as proposed by Cyprus.
On the fact that the bloc’s EU foreign ministers did not give Borrell the green light to launch official talks with Turkey, Christodoulides said it emerged from the discussion there were no grounds or willingness by Turkey, judging from its actions, for consultations with the EU.
“Within this framework, several states expressed doubts about the purpose of this dialogue at the moment taking into consideration Turkey’s overall behaviour,” he said.
Therefore, he said, it was agreed that they could not approve comprehensive negotiations, but that Borrell could seek ways to deescalate tensions strictly based on decisions taken by the FAC.
“It would be wrong to have a dialogue, and give the impression there is one, without prospects for anything specific,” Christodoulides said.
The issue will be discussed again in August depending on developments.
“Our intervention, like many other countries’, was that we are not against dialogue with Turkey but at the moment its behaviour offers no grounds for discussion, especially taking into account that it involves many issues concerning the EU,” he said.
He noted that intervention by several states was along the same lines as the positions of Cyprus though disagreements were also voiced mainly on Turkey being an important player on the migration issue and ought to be dealt with differently.
On Turkey’s statements it was willing to enter a dialogue with the bloc, Christodoulides said Ankara must prove this in actions.
Christodoulides also said that during the meeting, almost all members pointed out the timing of the announcement about the Hagia Sophia being turned into a mosque was not random, as it took place just a couple of days before the foreign affairs meeting, which was an effort to provoke the bloc.
The European Council adopted a decision last year on sanctions against members and companies involved in Turkey’s drilling activities off Cyprus. It instructs EU member countries to ban entry or transit of individuals and companies involved in the support or planning of drilling operations or any individual or company associated with them and freeze their financial assets.
The Turkish foreign ministry, commenting on Borrell’s statements after the FAC, said it appreciated the EU foreign policy chief’s emphasis on dialogue and engagement in Turkey-EU relations.
It also reiterated Turkey’s position on the issues in the eastern Mediterranean calling for the establishment of a cooperation mechanism between the two communities in Cyprus on hydrocarbon resources “including equitable sharing, resumption of dialogue channels with Turkey and the creation of an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation in the region without any preconditions, rather than forming alliances against Turkey.
“Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean can only be diffused by adoption of such an approach by all parties,” it said.
On Hagia Sophia, it said that it is a property of Turkey and any kind of power disposition regarding the monument, including its change of status is a matter within Turkish sovereign rights that no one can interfere with.
“In its new status, Hagia Sophia Mosque will still be open to visitors from all faiths and religions around the globe,” it said, adding that the measures to be taken will preserve the outstanding universal value of the property.