Turkey should be sanctioned if it continues violating Cyprus' EEZ - expert

Europe should impose sanctions on Turkey against its recent increased efforts to exploit huge hydrocarbon reserves of Cyprus, said Theodoros Tsakiris, assistant professor of energy policy and geopolitics at the University of Nicosia in an interview for non-partisan U.S. think tank the Gatestone Institute on Thursday.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece have escalated over the last year as both sides have stepped up efforts for gas drilling in the East Mediterranean, which also revived the dispute over maritime borders. 

Turkey also opposes what it calls Cyprus governments unilateral efforts for exploring the hydrocarbon reserves of Cyprus saying it ignores the fair share of the Turkish Cypriots in the north part of the island, a breakaway state only recognised by Turkey.

"Concrete steps should be taken to stop Turkish violations against Cyprus's EEZ. Sanctions should be imposed at the level of the European Council to the persons and companies responsible for the drilling," Gatestone quoted Theodoros Tsakiris, assistant professor of energy policy and geopolitics at the University of Nicosia, as saying.

Economic sanctions, including blocking of pre-accession funds given to Turkey by the European Union and exclusion of loans by the European Investment Bank, should be imposed, Tsakiris said. If Turkey maintains its threatening Cyprus policy, exclusion from the EU accession process and targeting the country's banking sector could be viable options, he added.

Turkey has recently sought to block exploration of gas by the Greek Cypriot government off Cyprus with warships and military exercise plans, prompting criticism from Greece, the European Union and the United States. 

Tsakiris said the United States should lift an arm embargo it imposed on the Greek Cypriot government in 1987 to allow it to defend itself against Turkey's aggression in the East Mediterranean. 

Cypriot government which has made deals with international oil and gas companies, such as the U.S. ExxonMobil and French Total, says any wealth will be divided once Cyprus is reunited.

"Mr. Erdogan is aware that it will be impossible for Turkey to achieve its goals of regional hegemony if U.S. interests in particular, but also French ones, develop a firm foothold in Cyprus. This is his biggest fear," Harris Samaras, an expert on the Cypriot EEZ, said in another interview with Gatestone.