The leaders of theEuropean Union gave the green light on Friday to sanction the Belarus and agreed on a message of firmness accompanied by threats of sanctions to the Turkey, after tough negotiations, according to diplomats.
The heads of state and government of the EU, meeting in summit in Brussels, reached an agreement, after long hours of discussions to convince Athens and Nicosia. These sanctions concern some 40 Belarusian officials, accused of repression against the opposition or of falsifying the result of the presidential election.
“If the EU joins us […] that could help a lot “Belarussian opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa told RTL radio on Thursday.
Solidarity with Greece and Cyprus
These measures had been ready for several weeks but had to be approved unanimously by the Member States: however, Cyprus refused to give its approval if the EU did not send a strong message to Turkey first to stop it. its illegal drilling operations in its waters.
The conflict in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are fighting over hydrocarbon deposits, was therefore at the heart of the summit discussions on Thursday.
First drafts of a compromise on a message of firmness against Ankara, accompanied by a threat of sanctions if it does not cease its illegal drilling in the territorial waters of Cyprus, were not considered tough enough by Nicosia and Athens, according to sources close to the discussions.
“Carrot and stick”
Cyprus demanded that the option of sanctions be included in black and white in the conclusions of the meeting on relations between the EU and Turkey. For its part, Greece wanted Europeans to use “The carrot and the stick” : opening offers with regard to Ankara, in particular on the customs union, but accompanied by threats of reprisals if Turkey continued its actions already condemned by the EU, according to a Greek diplomatic source.
“The time has come for Europe to discuss with courage and sincerity the kind of relations it really wants to have with Turkey”, had insisted before the summit the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, for whom the “Turkish provocations can no longer be tolerated”.
The way was narrow for the Twenty-Seven who do not want to compromise the dialogue that Athens and Ankara have promised to resume following a German mediation.
“Solidarity with Greece and Cyprus […] is non-negotiable “, warned French President Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival in Brussels. “When an EU member state is attacked, threatened, when its territorial waters are not respected, it is the duty of Europeans to show solidarity”, he added.
More nuanced, German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that “The European Union has great interest in developing a truly constructive relationship with Turkey, despite all the difficulties”.
A sign of a desire for appeasement, an agreement was found Thursday in NATO between Greece and Turkey on a mechanism to avoid conflicts. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said he was determined “To keep the avenues of dialogue open”, regretted Thursday that the Europeans are “Taken hostage” by the Greeks and Cypriots.
Rejection of “Interference”
According to their draft conclusions, obtained by AFP, the leaders should also condemn “Unacceptable violence” as well as “Intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions” opponents by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. They should also call to reject any “Outside interference”, a mention implicitly aimed at Moscow.
Another subject of concern for Europeans is the situation in Nagorno Karabakh, the scene of fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, despite calls for a ceasefire. An internationalization of the conflict risks destabilizing a region where powers like Russia and Turkey compete.
Emmanuel Macron said he had information on the presence of “Syrian fighters of jihadist groups”, “A very serious fact which changes the situation” in this territory mainly populated by Armenians, which seceded from Azerbaijan at the end of the USSR.