European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday urged the 28-member bloc to immediately draw up a list of "appropriate measures" against Turkey for drilling for gas in waters were EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg expressed "grave concern over the ongoing illegal drilling" and condemned the fact that Turkey hasn't heeded the EU's repeated appeals to end such actions and follow international law.
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Cyprus' Foreign Ministry said the EU's top diplomats called on the bloc's executive arm to submit possible sanctions, including cuts to pre-accession financial aid that Turkey as a membership candidate currently receives. The ministry said it's the first time the EU is mulling such actions against Turkey.
The ministers "stress the immediate and serious consequences Turkey's illegal actions are having on the entire fabric of Turkish-EU relations," the statement said.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades hailed the EU foreign ministers' statement as a positive development that he hopes will be mirrored in the decisions EU leaders make at a summit later this week. Earlier Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also said EU leaders should "unambiguously condemn the illegal actions of Turkey" during the summit.
Cyprus says any drilling by a Turkish drillship 40 miles (64 kilometers) off its western coastline is a flagrant violation of international law and its sovereign rights. Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus, says it's acting to protect its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area's energy reserves and insists the area where it's now drilling falls inside its own continental shelf.
Turkish officials have warned they will send a second ship to begin drilling off the east coast off the ethnically split Mediterranean island nation.
Companies that Cyprus has licensed to drill for gas off its southern coast include ExxonMobil, Italy's Eni and France's Total.