The decision on EU sanctions has been postponed for the meeting of the 27 leaders of member states, likely to take place on October 1 and 2 due to a case of coronavirus. At that meeting, it will become clear whether the case of Belarus will be linked with whether sanctions will be imposed on Turkey for its provocations in the Cyprus EEZ or not. Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides made it clear to the Council of Foreign Ministers that what was agreed in Berlin should be respected, in essence using his veto. Whether Nicosia will maintain this position until the end will be seen at the summit of the 27.
According to government spokesman Kyriakos Koushios, the President will insist on imposing sanctions on both Belarus and Turkey, noting that the implementation of EU principles cannot be a la carte. With this as a given, there is no question of the President’s position differentiating from that of Nikos Christodoulides. The question is how this will be managed, especially in a scenario where the Member States do not agree to link the two. There are already four scenarios for how things may play out.
1. Behind-the-scenes consultations may be held to resolve the issue so that the imposition of sanctions on Belarus proceeds normally while also satisfying Nicosia's demands. Angela Merkel has already suggested during her telephone conversation with the President of the Republic to ensure the discreet departure of the Yavuz and the resumption of talks, with the President of the Republic clarifying that he also wants the removal of the Barbaros. The fact that the meeting has been postponed for a week allows for more progress on the issue.
2. The situation may be brought to a standstill so that sanctions are imposed on neither Belarus nor Turkey.
3. Cyprus’ request for sanctions on Turkey for its provocations in the Cypriot EEZ may be satisfied.
4. Greece’s proposition may be accepted, whereby a list of sanctions will be prepared and activated if Turkey resumes its illegal activities.
The sanctions, of course, in addition to our efforts for sectoral sanctions on financial matters, reportedly target five individuals (two of whom are high-ranking) and three companies (two of which are subsidiaries of TPAO). A move that is more semantic than substantive, in order to punish Turkey for its challenges in the Cypriot EEZ. The problem, of course, is that Cyprus does not have the support of the other Member States for a parallel process. Josep Borrell admitted on Monday night that unanimity was not reached because of one country. France did not take this position, despite Macron's recent statements against Turkey and in favour of the imposition of sanctions. Even Greece is of the approach that the key is to reach a dialogue with Turkey. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has already expressed the position that sanctions should not be imposed on Turkey now, but that a list of sanctions should be prepared, which will not be imposed now but should be there to show what will happen if Turkey resumes its illegal activities, a position that has been interpreted by circles that Greece differs in the issue of sanctions.
Germany and the phone call
However, Germany has made it clear that it is not in favor of sanctions. The German Chancellor has taken the initiative to open a dialogue between Turkey and Greece. The German school of thought, in addition to not wanting to anger Turkey, especially because of the migration issue, argues that sanctions have no substance at the moment. No substance, since in less than a month the ‘elections’ in the Occupied Territories are set to take place and then, based on the statements of Guterres, negotiations will resume. They argue that imposing sanctions at this time will worsen the climate. The teleconference that the German Chancellor had with the President of the European Council and the Turkish President, to discuss both bilateral relations between Turkey and the EU and Greek-Turkish talks, did not go unnoticed.
Nicosia, however, denies allegations of isolation, but the messages of the international press are not very positive. Politico, for example, raises the question of the credibility of European foreign policy, after the failure to impose sanctions on Belarus, due to the stance of Cyprus, which, as it states, was the only one that refused to give its consent “in an attempt to pressure the rest of the Member States to support the imposition of stricter sanctions against Turkey”, while the German DW underlined that “Cyprus, which has good relations with Russia that supports the Lukashenko regime, has called for sanctions against Belarus to be linked with sanctions against Turkey.” The question, of course, is the impact of all this on the Cyprus Problem and the upcoming talks. There is a scenario that Nicosia may push for the departure of the Yavuz and Barbaros, thus launching the talks without ‘gunboat diplomacy’. There are, of course, several dangers. At a time when Cyprus does not have the best relations with Brussels, all this can work negatively for our side. In an EU which consists - apart from Member States that are positively close to Turkey - of several with a strong anti-Russian element, the feeling that Cyprus indirectly satisfies Russia’s wishes (which supports the Lukashenko regime), does not help much. Especially when Lukashenko's departure is something that the United States is eager to pursue, at a time when we want the US’ help in the negotiations.