Cyprus submits list of Turkish oil officials to EC for sanctions

Cyprus has submitted to the European Council for Foreign Affairs a list of Turkish nationals associated with the state-owned Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) to possibly face sanctions for Turkey’s drilling for natural gas in the Mediterranean island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Cyprus Mail wrote on Friday.

The list could include CEO Melih Han Bilgin, Vice Presidents Edip Müyesseroğlu and Mehmet Ferruh Akalın, and board member Alparslan Bayraktar, according to Cyprus Mail.

Cyprus aims to clearly convey a message that the problem is with TPAO leading the drilling, and thus has excluded politicians or public officials from the list of persons to be sanctioned, it added. However, Alparslan Bayraktar currently holds the office of Deputy Minister of Energy.

Following the placement of limited sanctions on Turkey in July, the EU revealed in a foreign ministers meeting in November a mechanism to allow the sanctioning of individuals and entities regarding unauthorised drilling for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.

Possible EU sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes, while also banning citizens of member states and companies in the EU from providing funds to sanctioned individuals or entities, and a decision is expected to come next month.

The July sanctions included a freeze on Turkey’s pre-accession funding and the suspension of negotiations on an aviation agreement.

Turkey says parts of Cyprus’s EEZ lie on its own continental shelf, and maintains the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which lacks international recognition and is only recognised by Turkey, is due a share of the revenue generated from the island’s natural resources.

The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, which controls the Greek-majority southern two-thirds of the island, says the matter could be discussed after the reunification of the island.

Turkey currently has two drilling vessels near Cyprus, accompanied by the Turkish navy, and plans to dispatch a third one. 

The country is also set to begin new drills following a deal with Libya that redefined its maritime borders, and has announced plans to block any economic activity without Ankara’s permission in the area, which includes territorial waters of Cyprus and Greek islands Rhodes and Crete among others.