London – The EU Council on Thursday placed two senior officials at Turkey’s state-owned TPAO under restrictive measures in relation to Turkey’s “unauthorized” drilling offshore Cyprus.
Measures have been imposed against TPAO exploration head Mehmet Ferruh Akalin and deputy exploration director Ali Coscun Namoglu.
“These persons are responsible for, or involved in planning, directing and implementing offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean which have not been authorized by Cyprus,” the Council said.
TPAO has drilled a number of wells offshore Cyprus since August last year, and has drilled two wells in blocks already licensed by Cyprus to international explorers such as France’s Total and Italy’s Eni.
The Council adopted in November a framework for sanctions that can be imposed against those responsible for Turkey’s drilling in Cyprus after Ankara showed no sign of ending its controversial gas exploration.
The restrictive measures imposed Thursday consist of a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze for Akalin and Namoglu.
“Moreover, EU persons and entities are not allowed to make funds available to the two listed persons,” it said.
The EU in July already imposed limited sanctions against Turkey but has now moved to target measures against those responsible for drilling.
Cyprus is already home to as much as 550 Bcm of gas resources following the Aphrodite, Calypso and Glaucus discoveries of recent years, so the stakes are high as the dispute over maritime rights continues to intensify.
Turkey has previously warned it would increase its presence in the East Mediterranean if EU sanctions were imposed.
The latest escalation in tensions between Brussels and Ankara follows TPAO’s move last month into Cyprus’s Block 8 having already drilled a well in Block 7 late last year.
In September, the Cypriot government signed agreements with Total and Eni giving them the license to drill in Block 7.
Turkey, though, has warned non-Turkish companies not to drill in the block, saying it has the right to drill in the northwest of Block 7 under its interpretation of maritime law.