EU signals sanctions on Turkey over Cyprus drilling - draft

Turkey rejects claims it is drilling illegally for gas off Cyprus

The foreign ministry said Turkey's Fatih ship had started drilling activities to the west of the Mediterranean island at the start of May and its Yavuz ship had recently arrived east of Cyprus and would also conduct drilling activities.

The European Union will put on hold high-level talks with Ankara and negotiations on an air transport agreement, as well as freezing funding for Turkey next year, over "illegal" drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

Turkish Cyprus has announced that it will offer Greek Cyprus to jointly establish a committee that will deal with a dispute ongoing between the two countries over hydrocarbon drilling in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The ship dropped anchor off the island's north-eastern Karpas peninsula on Monday.

Turkey yesterday vowed to continue drilling activities off Cyprus despite tensions with the European Union, which has called on Ankara to cease its "illegal" activities.

Ankara insists it is acting within its own continental shelf or in territorial waters where Turkish Cypriots would also be entitled to an equal share of any finds.

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Israel expressed its "full support and solidarity" with Cyprus on Wednesday in the wake of Turkish natural gas drilling operations off the coast of Cyprus, which Nicosia claims violate its sovereignty.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.

Cyprus's government said the discussed sanctions are too vague and too general, said Kathimerini, because they don't a clear reference to restrictive measures that the European Council said it would propose in June, including blacklisting people or companies involved with the Turkish drilling.

While Cyprus wants a tougher line on Turkey, it as failed to have arrested the crew of a Turkish ship drilling in the EEZ, parts of which Turkey doesn't recognize, after issuing an worldwide warrant.

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