EU imposes sanctions on Belarus

Leaders agreed on a two-track approach to Turkey, wanting to give a chance to political dialogue

Photo: EU Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel during the press conference on Friday morning..

The EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday afternoon at a Special Summit with a wide-ranging agenda, starting with foreign relations topics. At the last moment, the agenda was reshuffled and the session was kicked off with discussion on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and on Belarus. 

These topics remained closely interlinked, as Cyprus had been hindering for more than a month the EU intentions to impose sanctions on Belarus, namely on individuals connected to falsifications during the presidential election, insisting on further sanctions against Turkey in connection to its oil and gas drillings in disputed areas in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It took long hours of talks to strike an agreement on Belarus sanctions and this happened after Nicosia was satisfied with the wording that the Union would also sanction Turkey if it continues oil and gas exploration along the coast of Cyprus.

It is a clear signal that we send, that we are credible, President Michel commented at a news conference after the session. He stressed that in August, the EU expressed a united position on the situation in Belarus and now “we all agree to implement sanctions without delay”.

He also said that the leaders agreed on a two-track approach to Turkey, wanting to give a chance to political dialogue. “But in case of renewed provocations we will use all instruments at our disposal.”

We expect Turkey to stop its unilateral and illegal actions and this is a precondition for a positive long-term agenda, EC President Ursula von der Leyen said.

EU leaders reiterated its full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, whose sovereignty and sovereign rights must be respected. They stressed that the EU has a strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey.

Stating that all differences must be resolved through peaceful dialogue and in accordance with international law, EU leaders also welcomed the recent confidence-building steps by Greece and Turkey and the announcement that they will resume their exploratory talks.

But they strongly condemned violations of the sovereign rights of Cyprus and called on Turkey to accept Nicosia's invitation to engage in dialogue.

On condition that constructive efforts to stop illegal activities vis-a-vis Greece and Cyprus are sustained, the European Council has agreed to launch a positive political EU-Turkey agenda.

In case of renewed unilateral actions or provocations in breach of international law, the EU will use all the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States. EU heads of states and prime ministers will come back to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and take decisions as appropriate, at the latest at its meeting in December.

As for Belarus, the bloc's leaders condemned the authorities' unacceptable violence against peaceful protesters, intimidation and arbitrary arrests and detentions following the presidential elections, the results of which it does not recognise.

They called for end of violence and repression, release of all detainees and political prisoners, respect of media freedom and civil society, and start of an inclusive national dialogue. As President Michel explained to the press, Alexander Lukashenko is not on the current list, “but we will follow the developments”.

The summit also discussed the relations with China, Navalny's poisoning and the Nagorno-Karabakh escalation. The focus during the session on Friday is on the single market, industrial policy, the digital transformation and the negotiations with the UK.

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