Foreign-Policy Deadlock Broken: EU Leaders Agree Belarus Sanctions & Issue Stern Warning to Turkey

Written by | Sunday, October 4th, 2020

After weeks of bickering, European Union leaders unblocked a veto by one of the EU’s smallest member countries to impose sanctions on dozens of senior officials in Belarus on Friday night (2 October) and fired a warning at Turkey over its gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean. In an embarrassing standoff, Cyprus had insisted that its EU partners take action against Turkey for its energy exploration work in disputed waters off the Mediterranean island nation’s coast before it would agree to the Belarus sanctions. The biggest challenge at the EU summit was the bloc’s own unanimity rule, which had made it difficult to reach decisions among the 27 member states on Belarus and Turkey sanctions, exposing once again the shortcomings of EU foreign policymaking.
But after several hours of talks into the night (1 October), the leaders agreed on a strong statement of support for Cyprus, as well as for Greece, and issued a stern warning to Ankara that it could face punitive measures if it continues the undersea drilling work. “We have decided today to implement the sanctions,” European Council President Charles Michel told the press, adding that “it’s very important to do what we decided a few weeks ago,” and to send a signal that “we are credible.” Tensions between the European neighbors ran high for several weeks in the eastern Mediterranean when Turkey began surveying for potential energy reserves in an area Greece claims as part of its continental shelf. Ankara said is operating within its own exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, NATO has announced the framework of a deconfliction agreement between Greece and Turkey, which have been trying to avoid a military conflict over the exploration of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean. Both NATO allies agreed to set up a mechanism to avoid accidental conflicts in the Mediterranean, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday (1 October). NATO confirmed that the two neihboring countries have agreed to “a bilateral military deconfliction mechanism” that would prevent a military confrontation over the dispute. The agreement includes establishing a hotline for use between senior officials should a confrontation arise.“ Stoltenberg also said in a statement that “this safety mechanism can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts to address the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further.”

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