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EU imposes sanctions over Turkey’s offshore drilling near Cyprus

10 March 2020

On February 27, the European Union imposed sanctions on two people for their roles in Turkey’s drilling operations off the Cypriot coast. In June 2019, Turkey stoked tensions with the EU after it sent a second drillship, the Yavuz, to Mediterranean waters thought to be rich in natural gas where both Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Cyprus have overlapping martime claims.

Drillship Yavuz – Image: Shutterstock
Drillship Yavuz – Image: Shutterstock

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots, who have their own self-declared state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey, and is internationally isolated. At the time, EU leaders warned Turkey to halt its gas drilling in disputed waters or face action from the bloc.

Now, two unnamed individuals have been targeted with travel bans to the EU and asset freezes, Reuters news agency reports. In a statement, the European Council said: “These persons are responsible for or involved in planning, directing and implementing offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean which have not been authorised by the Republic of Cyprus.”

Cyprus first discovered offshore gas in 2011 but has since been in dispute with Turkey over maritime claims. Turkey has been negotiating with the EU for many years about joining the bloc but has run into opposition in recent years with some EU member countries.

The recent sanctions stopped short of targeting specific companies. The Yavuz drilling ship is owned by state oil and gas group TPAO.

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