EU agrees sanctions against Turkey for drilling off Cyprus

In this Tuesday, July 9, 2019 photo, a helicopter flies near Turkey's drilling ship, 'Fatih' dispatched towards the eastern Mediterranean, near Cyprus. Turkish officials say the drillships Fatih and Yavuz will drill for gas, which has prompted protests from Cyprus.(Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool)
Updated 15 July 2019

EU agrees sanctions against Turkey for drilling off Cyprus

BRUSSELS: European Union officials on Monday agreed political and financial sanctions against Turkey after Ankara went ahead with drilling operations off Cyprus despite repeated warnings, European diplomats said.
“The conclusions on Turkey have been adopted and they will be made public in the coming hours,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after a meeting with members states’ foreign ministers.
The most serious measure is understood to be a cut of 145.8 million euros ($164 million) in the European funds allocated to Turkey for 2020.
The European Investment Bank has been asked to revisit the conditions set out for providing financial support to Ankara, according to several European sources.
The EU is also expected to downgrade its dialogue with Turkey, without cutting it off completely.
And one senior European diplomat added: “It has not be ruled out that targeted sanctions be adopted at some time or other.”
The EU last month warned Turkey it could face sanctions if it did not cease what the bloc called “illegal” drilling in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.
Last week, diplomats began discussing what measures to impose.
It was the discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean that sparked the dispute between EU member Cyprus and Turkey.
Ankara sent two ships to carry out drilling off the Cypriot coast despite the warnings from the EU.
Cyprus has been divided between the Republic of Cyprus and a northern third under Turkish military control since 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by a Greek military junta.
The tensions over gas drilling are also likely related to the collapse of peace talks in 2017, experts say.
While negotiations to reunify the island have not restarted, Cyprus has moved to start gas and oil exploration by issuing licenses.


Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

Updated 13 min 9 sec ago

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

  • Members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders are expected to sign the documents that will govern the 39-month transition
  • The deal reached on August 4 brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval

KHARTOUM: Sudan was poised Saturday to celebrate a historic deal between generals and protest leaders for a transition to civilian rule, which many hope will bring increased freedom and prosperity.
During a ceremony to be held at a hall by the Nile in the capital Khartoum, members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders are expected to sign the documents that will govern the 39-month transition.
“Today, the country begins its historic transition to democracy,” read the front page of the Tayar newspaper, a headline echoed by most other dailies.
But the road to democracy remains fraught with obstacles, even if the mood was celebratory as foreign dignitaries as well as thousands of citizens from all over Sudan converged for the occasion.
The deal reached on August 4 — the Constitutional Declaration — brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilize against president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.
The agreement brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides — protesters celebrated what they see as the victory of their “revolution,” while the generals took credit for averting civil war.
Hundreds of people boarded a train from the town of Atbara — the birthplace of the protests back in December — on Friday night, dancing and singing on their way to the celebrations in Khartoum, videos shared on social media showed.
“Civilian rule, civilian rule,” they chanted, promising to avenge the estimated 250 allegedly killed by security forces during the protests.
After Saturday’s signing, Sudan kicks off a process that includes important first steps.
The composition of the civilian-majority transition ruling council is to be announced on Sunday.
On Thursday, former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist, was designated as transitional prime minister.
He is expected to focus on attempting to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which went into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and was the trigger that sparked the initial protests.
At Khartoum’s central market early Saturday, shoppers and stallholders interviewed by AFP all said they hoped a civilian government would help them put food on the table.
“Everybody is happy now,” said Ali Yusef, a 19-year-old university student who works in the market to get by.
“We were under the control of the military for 30 years but today we are leaving this behind us and moving toward civilian rule,” he said, sitting next to tomatoes piled directly on the ground.
“All these vegetables around are very expensive but now I’m sure they will become cheaper.”
While it remains to be seen what changes the transition can bring to people’s daily lives, residents old and young were eager to exercise a newfound freedom of expression.
“I’m 72 and for 30 years under Bashir, I had nothing to feel good about. Now, thanks to God, I am starting to breathe,” said Ali Issa Abdel Momen, sitting in front of his modest selection of vegetables at the market.
But many Sudanese are already questioning the ability of the transitional institutions to rein in the military elite’s powers during the three-year period leading to planned elections.
The country of 40 million people will be ruled by an 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defense ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
Observers have warned that the transitional government will have little leverage to counter any attempt by the military to roll back the uprising’s achievements and seize back power.
Saturday’s official ceremony is to be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several other regional leaders.
Security forces deployed across the city for the biggest international event to be held in a long time in Sudan, which had become something of a pariah country under Bashir’s rule.
One of the most immediate diplomatic consequences of the compromise reached this month could be the lifting of a suspension slapped on Sudan by the African Union in June.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in the Darfur region, had been slated to appear in court Saturday on corruption charges.
But his trial has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.