European Parliament calls for ‘tough sanctions’ for Turkey ahead of summit

Members of the European Parliament have adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning what they called Turkey’s illegal activities in Cyprus, and called on the European Council to impose sanctions on the country.

In the resolution, the MEPs said Turkey partially opening the Cypriot ghost town of Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta that was once a bustling tourist favourite before 1974 when it was included in a U.N. buffer zone in the divided island, “weakens prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, exacerbating divisions and entrenching the permanent partition of the island.”

Varosha, after years of dispute and several attempts in the past, was partially opened in early October, with Cypriot Turkish administrators saying property in the ghost town would be returned to former Turkish residents.

Nikos Anastasiades, president of the Republic of Cyprus, which enjoys international recognition against the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus only recognized by Turkey, condemned the reopening as an illegal action in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The EP resolution called the reopening “a new fait accompli,” and said property should be returned to its “lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984)) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement,” MEPs said.

European lawmakers said they “regret that the Turkish authorities have endorsed the two-state solution for Cyprus,” and expressed support for a “fair, comprehensive and viable settlement on the basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with a single international legal status.”

Three MEPs voted against the resolution, which had been submitted by the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), while 631 voted in favour and 59 abstained.

A press briefing by the EP said Turkey had been distancing itself further from European values and standards, and that EU-Turkey relations were at a historic low. Turkey’s “illegal and unilateral military actions in the Eastern Mediterranean infringe on the sovereignty of EU member states Greece and Cyprus,“ said the EP, pointing to Turkey’s “direct support” of Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, and its actions in Libya and Syria.

While EU member states Germany, Italy, Spain and Hungary have stated a preference for dialogue over sanctions with regards to Turkey, others like France and Austria call for harsh measures.

EU leaders are scheduled to hold a summit on Dec. 10 and 11, which will have the eastern Mediterranean crisis and Turkey on the agenda, alongside huge transnational issues ailing the bloc like the coronavirus response and Brexit.

Possible sanctions on Turkey could encompass the maritime, energy and banking sectors if EU decides to go through with them, according to former Turkish diplomat Ömer Murat, who cited an unnamed European diplomat as saying the actual content of sanctions were not agreed upon yet.

However, there is a joint understanding that there should be some form of sanctions, Murat added, and the question is how markets would respond.

“Germany’s stance will determine how it goes,” the diplomat said. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas “has not forgotten Ankara’s humiliating approach,” he added, where Turkish authorities held hydrocarbon exploration vessel Oruç Reis back for one day before sending it back into contested territorial waters to continue its search for natural gas.