EU threatens Turkey with sanctions over Cyprus drilling

Turkey rejects claims it is drilling illegally for gas off Cyprus

The incident had been reported in the Turkish Cypriot media earlier this week and was also raised by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci during a meeting with United Nations special envoy Elizabeth Spehar on Wednesday.

After several European Union press releases - along with those from the United States supporting Cyprus and condemning Turkey - were ignored by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Anastasiades' government is pushing for sanctions with teeth.

"We express grave concern over Turkey's announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus", EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini has said in a statement.

"The Council endorses the [European] Commission's proposal to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and invites the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending", it said.

"The drilling activities of our ship Yavuz are based on legal and legitimate grounds", the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

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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.

Restrictive measures will continue should Turkey continue illegal drilling, however the European Union bloc needs Turkey in matters such as security and migration and there are member states that also rely on Turkey for energy transit.

A joint decision was drafted in Brussels by national envoys on Thursday.

That means Turkish Cypriots living in the breakaway north and Greek Cypriots living in the internationally recognized south can use their mobile devices on either side for the first time.

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