Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides was at pains to justify Cyprus’ refusal to give its consent to EU sanctions against Belarus and play down criticism that the government had left itself isolated as a result. Speaking on state radio, he also tried to make out that his stance at Monday’s EU foreign ministers’ meeting was quite normal and said the postponement of the European Council by a week would give a chance to Germany to complete its efforts to secure a de-escalation in the Mediterranean.
His assertion that Germany would be trying to secure the termination of Turkey violations of the Cypriot EEZ, was more an attempt at positive spin – perhaps a case of wishful thinking – than a sober evaluation of the situation. Germany and the EU considered they had achieved the de-escalation in the Mediterranean by brokering a Turkey-Greece dialogue, and it is very unlikely they would give much time to Turkey’s violations of the Cypriot EEZ, as Christodoulides had claimed they would do.
Considering the objective of securing a dialogue between Greece and Turkey has been achieved, why would the EU do anything to jeopardise this such as pressuring President Erdogan to withdraw Turkey’s ships from the Cypriot EEZ? Why would EU leaders agree to sanctions against Turkey, as Cyprus has been demanding, when improving relations with Ankara has been on the EU’s agenda since March?
We very much doubt Cyprus’ efforts to force such a decision by refusing to give its consent to measures against Belarus will be successful. On the contrary, it could weaken Cyprus’ position in the Union, alienating many of our partners. Even France’s minister for EU affairs, Clement Beaune, who was in Cyprus a few days ago offering his country’s support, expressed disapproval of Nicosia’s insistence on linking sanctions against Belarus to measures against Turkey.
Beaune told Politico website on Tuesday: “I was clear on that yesterday … with my Cypriot colleagues saying, ‘OK, you should unlock the Belarus sanctions, because I think you are not doing a favour to yourself by creating this link’.” It was a diplomatic way of telling Christodoulides that his approach would hurt Cyprus.
The High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, was also indirectly critical of Cyprus, saying that EU’s failure to act fast on Belarus was destroying the EU’s credibility, the clear implication being that Cyprus was responsible, as it was the only country preventing the Union from acting quickly. No other country – not even Greece – stood by Cyprus at the foreign ministers’ meeting.
The sad thing is that we have caused a big problem to the EU, undermining our country’s standing, alienating many of our partners and isolating ourselves, for nothing that would benefit us in practical terms. Sanctions would only fuel Turkey’s intransigence and aggressiveness, which is why EU leaders are unlikely to give in to Cyprus’ demand.