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EU mulls Turkey sanctions over Varosha

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EU foreign ministers have assessed measures – including sanctions – they could take against Turkey for reopening the fenced-off abandoned beach resort of Varosha.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said ministers in the bloc were evaluating options on the table after the Turkish Cypriot administration partially demilitarised Varosha and reopened it to tourists.

Discussions on the possibility of adopting measures, particularly targeted measures against people and entities involved in Turkey’s unilateral action in Varosha, will continue at the level of EU permanent representatives (COREPER).

Diplomatic sources said that during the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on Monday, Borrell pointed to the continuation of the discussion while also recognising that adopting confidence-building measures regarding Varosha could be a catalyst in the efforts to solve the Cyprus Problem.

Developments point to a continuation of the discussion on the EU’s reaction to the situation in Varosha, with Brussels also pointing to the need for resumption of UN-backed Cyprus talks.

Borrell had said the foreign ministers needed to move with specific decisions since the issue of Varosha has been discussed for a long time, and they had a range of options for legal and political measures.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides argued the EU’s credibility would be endangered if no decisions were taken.

Christodoulides argued in favour of a two-pronged approach, consisting of adopting specific measures, which would not need to be enforced if Turkey accepted confidence-building measures on Varosha.

According to diplomatic sources, the countries that supported reaching specific decisions on Monday included Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Estonia, Ireland, Malta and Luxembourg.

Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, and Luxembourg noted that Turkey would get the wrong message otherwise.

New German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she would need additional time to examine the options paper and evaluate their effects.

Italy and The Netherlands are also reported to have shown the same reservations over taking measures.

The international community has condemned the Varosha move, which Ankara is driving.

Under UN Security Resolutions, settlement in Varosha “by people other than its inhabitants” is prohibited.

Borrell said that ministers would not yet take concrete action and said it was crucial that Turkey “refrains from any actions that would further deteriorate the situation on the ground”.

Earlier this year, the EU condemned “Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to reopen the former resort.