New European Union sanctions against Belarus were to come into effect today, even as the bloc warned Turkey could face the same fate over a maritime dispute during a two-day summit in Brussels.
The EU sanctions target some 40 Belarusian officials, but not President Alexander Lukashenko, over what the group sees were flawed August elections and a tough crackdown on subsequent protests. EU leaders announced the measures following hours of talks in the Belgian capital, after managing to overcome opposition from tiny member Cyprus.
Nicosia had been holding out in hopes of a similar move against Turkey over disputed oil and gas rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Instead, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged Ankara to pursue dialogue with both Greece and Cyprus in settling what the EU considers illegal infringement in Cypriot waters. In a statement, the bloc warned of consequences otherwise, according to von der Leyen.
“In case of such renewed actions by Ankara the EU will use all its instruments and options available. We have a toolbox that we can apply immediately. But this is not what we want. We want and would prefer to work on a new long-term EU-Turkey relationship."
A senior Turkish official told news agencies Friday that EU sanctions would make Turkey even more determined to pursue what he described as its territorial rights in the Mediterranean. On Thursday, though, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wanted to resolve differences peacefully.
EU leaders also called in a statement for an immediate end to fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh and warned against foreign interference.
French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of sending jihadists from Syria to join the conflict — which he said was unacceptable. Ankara has denied sending mercenaries.
The two-day EU summit addressed a raft of other thorny issues, including its relations with China and whether to tie billions of dollars of coronavirus recovery funds to adherence by member states to the rule of law.
A first-ever assessment by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, found Hungary and Poland, in particular, faced democratic challenges. Several countries also faced high level corruption and free press issues, according to the assessment.
Separately, the commission also took legal action against Britain over its decision to override parts of a Brexit agreement. The commission president is set to hold talks Saturday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.