January 24, 2020
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Cyprus is blocking new European Union sanctions against several officials from Russia-annexed Crimea in a bid to secure EU backing for tougher action against Turkey in a separate row over drilling for hydrocarbons, three diplomatic sources said.
Nicosia denied linking the two issues and said it needed time to review the proposed measures against the Crimean officials.
Cyprus, backed by the EU, accuses Turkey of drilling illegally for oil and gas in its territorial waters. The EU has prepared the ground for travel bans and asset freezes but has postponed saying which Turkish officials they would target in order to give Ankara time to change tack.
The EU has also agreed to blacklist more officials in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, but the sanctions require unanimous support from all 28 member states and Cyprus has recently blocked the process at the technical level, the sources said.
“The way Cyprus is hijacking the Russia listings has deeply irritated its friends and partners around the table. It is all the more surprising since Cyprus has enjoyed unparalleled solidarity from its EU partners over the last few months (in the dispute with Turkey),” said one EU diplomat.