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EU threatens Turkey with sanctions over Cyprus drilling - draft

EU threatens Turkey with sanctions over Cyprus drilling - draft

The EU is set to curb contacts and funding for Ankara in retaliation for what it calls Turkey's "illegal" drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus, Reuters reported, citing a draft statement.

Tensions over hydrocarbons escalated sharply after the discovery of possibly huge gas reserves off Cyprus, where there are conflicting claims over territorial waters.

The statement said the European Union has become an actor of the play of unlawfulness staged by the Greek Cypriot-Greek partnership against the rights of the Turkish Cypriots who are the co-owners of the island.

ExxonMobil, Total and Eni are among the firms that have won licences to search in blocks around the island.

Its arrival came two months after another ship, the Fatih, began drilling off Cyprus's west coast escorted by a frigate. Turkey has despatched exploration vessels into the area, and Cyprus says that may be a violation of its sovereignty. Its determination to press ahead with drilling follows Nicosia's decision to take legal action, with arrest warrants issued for the crew of Fatih.

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Cyprus, which has switched hands between the Greek, Roman, Ottoman and British empires over the centuries, was partially occupied by Turkey after a 1974 Greek coup which attempted to unite the island with Greece. "Don't expect any wide economic sanctions". On the divided island, an internationally recognized government is part of the European Union but Turkey backs a breakaway area.

"Turkey's drilling activities are fully granted by Turkish Cypriot Authorities, namely the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, within its continental shelf notified to United Nations", the statement said.

The EU is reluctant to be too hard on Erdogan, needing Turkey - which has been trying fruitlessly to join the bloc for 14 years - for security cooperation and to keep him from flooding Greek islands with more refugees and migrants.

Egypt has also voiced protest against the Turkish drilling.