European Union backs Cyprus in stand-off with Turkey

Turkey rejects claims it is drilling illegally for gas off Cyprus

They foresee proposals for a suspension of negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and a halting of high-level dialogues for the time being.

The only reference in the draft to the possibility of specific sanctions is in the final paragraph, which states that Council calls on the European Commission to continue working on possible restrictive measures against Turkey if it continues drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, soft-pedaling again what to do.

"Despite our best intentions to keep good neighbourly relations with Turkey, its continued escalation and challenge to the sovereignty of our Member State Cyprus will inevitably lead the EU to respond in full solidarity", Donald Tusk, president of the European Council of ministers, said on Wednesday.

The EU had previously claimed that Turkey's activities regarding hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean are illegal and the union will take some measures on that.

The official said further details can not be revealed as the process is under way.

A joint decision was drafted in Brussels by national envoys on Thursday.

"The drilling activities of our ship Yavuz are based on legal and legitimate grounds", the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, as the bloc needs Turkey in matters such as security and migration, an European Union diplomat said any future sanctions would be limited.

While Cyprus wants a tougher line on Turkey, it as failed to have arrested the crew of a Turkish ship drilling in the EEZ, parts of which Turkey doesn't recognize, after issuing an worldwide warrant.

On Thursday, Turkey's ruling AK Party spokesman said the sanctions against Ankara would be a huge mistake for the EU.

Turkish Cypriot reports said water bottles were thrown at the bus and damage was done to its side-mirrors by angry Greek Cypriots but who they were was not immediately confirmed.

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