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.


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.