Turkey’s East Med ambitions facing EU roadblock – Bloomberg

Turkey’s bid for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean could hit a roadblock on Wednesday, when EU government envoys will meet in Brussels to discuss punitive measures against the Turkish government for its drilling activities, Bloomberg reported.

Those measures could include reductions to Turkey’s pre-accession funding from the EU, adjustments to lending to Turkey, the suspension of agreements and meetings between EU and Turkish officials, and sanctions.

Ankara has opposed the Republic of Cyprus’s attempts to extract hydrocarbons around the island, setting it at odds with regional neighbours who are dealing with the Greek Cypriot administration.

Turkish vessels have been sent to drill in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, drawing threats of economic sanctions against Turkey from the European Council in June.

The government of Turkey, the only state to recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), says the Greek Cypriot administration’s efforts to extract hydrocarbons infringe on Turkish Cypriots’ rights. Ankara also disputes the Greek Cypriot exclusive economic zone, parts of which it says falls on Turkey’s continental shelf.

Ankara's policies in the Eastern Mediterranean have raised hackles in Greece and Israel, which have made agreements with Cyprus over the resources around the island.

Egypt on Tuesday joined the chorus of countries warning Turkey against escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over its attempt to drill for oil and gas in the waters off Cyprus.

The Egyptian foreign ministry "stressed the importance of non-escalation and commitment to respecting and implementing international law," the Daily News Egypt reported.

The menu of measures the EU envoys will discuss on Wednesday include a 145.8 million-euro reduction in pre-accession funding, as well as a re-examination of the European Investment Bank’s lending in Turkey, particularly sovereign-backed lending. The bank loaned nearly 386 million euros to Turkey in 2018.

The EU may also implement “targeted measures such as sanctions” on individuals and businesses connected to Turkey’s deep-sea hydrocarbon exploration and production sectors, Bloomberg said.

Sanctions could deal a stunning blow to the economy of Turkey, which was sent into a tailspin when the United States implemented relatively minor sanctions on Turkish ministers during a diplomatic spat last August. Washington is expected to level further sanctions at Turkey this year over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, which officials have said will arrive this week.

The measures to be discussed by the EU envoys also include the suspension of talks over an aviation agreement and bilateral meetings between EU and Turkish ministers leaders, another blow to Turkey’s stalled effort to gain EU accession.

“The bloc’s foreign policy service would also advise member states to refrain from high-level contacts with Turkey”, Bloomberg’s Viktoria Dendrinou and Nikos Chrysoloras cited an unnamed official as saying.