US Senator Robert Menendez proposed sanctions be imposed against Turkey if the country proceeds with further developments in the fenced-off area in Famagusta.

The carrot and stick motivational approach could be used to give Turkey incentives to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, Menendez, who visited the island for the annual diaspora conference this week, told Philenews in an interview on Sunday.

He referred to Ankara’s desire to revive its EU accession process, expressing his agreement with the position of both Greece and Cyprus for a gradual and reversible path.

“Turkey has several issues to address before it can be verified that it meets the criteria for EU membership and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a member state should be a basic requirement,” he said.

But stressed that “at the same time, we have to be ready to go in the other direction.”

“If we see additional Turkish activity in Varosha, we should consider sanctions as a tool to prevent this kind of activity that further destabilizes the island,” he said.

In relation to the new provocations in Pyla, Menendez said that “unfortunately just this week the TC authorities have again reminded us that they seek to threaten and destabilise the UN mission.”

“Obviously, this kind of aggressive behaviour is not in the interest of the majority of people seeking a peaceful resolution”.

But added that, in his opinion, “we must reinvigorate a substantive and direct peace process.”

Menendez pointed out that in the short term, we need to keep building trust between communities, including through deepening economic ties, fostering exchange programs, and proposing new confidence-building measures the Republic’s leadership suggested in May 2022. In the long term, “we need to explore all tools to pressure Turkey to stop discouraging Turkish Cypriots from engaging in a meaningful way.”

Furthermore, responding to a question on energy, Menendez recalled that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fuelled an urgent recognition across Europe that the continent needs to diversify its energy sources.

“Cyprus has a very important role to play in the development of energy security policy and I am encouraged by the opportunities for further regional integration,” he said.

During his speech at the World Conference of Cyprus’ Diaspora on Thursday, Menendez called on the UN Security Council to immediately pass a resolution denouncing recent Turkish actions in the buffer zone in Pyla and said his country should move from “condemnation to action” in its overall approach to the Cyprus issue.

“Let’s call it what it is – an unacceptable violation of international law,” the US senator said of the Pyla incidents, drawing rapturous applause from attendees.

He described the recent incident as a “power grab.”

In his speech, the New Jersey politician repeatedly slammed Ankara’s policy on Cyprus as well as Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan, whom he called “an authoritarian.”

He mentioned that 40,000 Turkish troops remain on the island, making Cyprus one of the most heavily militarised places in the world, explaining that this is why he takes “very seriously” the Turkish “threat” of annexing the north.