The European Union is looking into taking what it calls “appropriate” measures against Turkey amid rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean continue to mount as a result of the Turkish government’s refusal to halt their gas drilling activities in Cyprus’ offshore maritime zone, according to the conclusions of the General Affairs Council (GAC) Tuesday in Luxembourg.

“The Council noted that Turkey continues to move further away from the European Union,” adding, “Turkey’s accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen at this time”.

According to Cyprus’ Foreign Minister, Nicos Christodoulides, the Council will continue to closely monitor developments and discuss Turkey’s unlawful actions. “In assessing the seriousness of the situation and in the context of expression of practical solidarity, as in similar cases, the Council for the first time invites the Commission and the EEAS to submit without delay specific recommendations for appropriate measures”.

The European Commission will put forward proposals for political and economic measures, including Turkey’s pre-accession aid and high-level dialogues, and the EEAS will examine targeted measures that fall within the Union’s external action, Christodoulides added.

The Turkish government will most likely unequivocally commit to good neighbourly relations, international agreements, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice, but the illegal actions carried out by Ankara in the Eastern Mediterranean continue without any evidence that Turkey will halt its drilling activities.

The Council of Ministers expressed serious concerns and strongly condemned Turkey, saying it “deplores that Turkey has not yet responded to the European Union’s repeated calls to cease such activities.” The Council also noted that certain acts by Ankara have had a serious negative impact on EU-Turkey relations.

“The Council invites the Commission and the European External Action Service to submit options for appropriate measures without delay,” a process that according to EU diplomatic sources could lead to sanctions both for companies and individuals involved in illegal offshore drilling.

Turkey’s drilling ship Fatih has been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and recently began drilling. A second ship, the Yavuz, has also been dispatched to the area, a move that the Council responded to by saying the Turkish vessels “must respect the sovereignty of all EU Member States over their territorial sea and airspace as well as all their sovereign rights, including inter alia the right to explore and exploit natural resources, in accordance with EU and international law.”