EU to 'Swiftly' Impose Turkey Sanctions Over Oil Drilling Off Cyprus Shore

Measures could include travel bans and asset freezes; EU also condemned ongoing Turkish military activity in northeastern Syria

A Turkish police officer patrols the dock next to the drilling ship 'Yavuz' to be dispatched for operations in an area off the Karpas peninsula on Cyprus' east coast in August 2019.
Lefteris Pitarakis,AP

EU foreign ministers prepared Monday to move ahead with sanctions targeting Turkey in response to its gas drilling activities off the shore of member state Cyprus, which the bloc considers illegal.

The issue has strained already tense relations with Ankara and led the European Union to take a series of punitive measures in July, suspending negotiations on an aviation deal, among other things. These have had no tangible effect.

Foreign ministers reaffirmed their "full solidarity with Cyprus" in a statement issued during talks in Luxembourg on Monday.

They invited EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to "swiftly present" proposals for restrictive measures targeting individuals involved in the drilling activities.

Measures could include EU travel bans and asset freezes.

Nicosia has been calling on its EU partners to take action after Turkey dispatched two vessels to drill in waters considered by Cyprus to be part of its exclusive economic zone.

Ankara maintains that its gas prospecting actions are in line with international law.

Turkey has sought for decades to join the European Union, but has regressed on key EU benchmarks relating to the rule of law, citizens' rights and media freedom since a failed coup attempt three years ago.

Also Monday, the EU condemned ongoing Turkish military activity in north-eastern Syria. Several member states have decided to curb arms exports to the country.