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We are not against sanctions on Belarus, insists Cyprus FM Nikos Christodoulides

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Interview with Cypriot Foreign Minister
Interview with Cypriot Foreign Minister   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Cyprus insists it does not oppose sanctions against Belarus but wants similar measures slapped on Turkey.

Nicosia on Monday prevented the EU from agreeing on punitive measures against Minsk over Belarus' disputed presidential election.

Nikos Christodoulides, Cyprus' foreign affairs minister, told Euronews the country first wanted sanctions put on Turkey over what the European Council refers to as Ankara's "unauthorised drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean".

"The Republic of Cyprus supports and does not raise the issue of veto or anything else regarding Belarus," said Christodoulides. "There is no way we are against the adoption of measures against the regime in Belarus."

A Greek-Turkish naval standoff began last month when Turkish research and drill ships began searching for energy reserves in waters where Greece and ethnically divided Cyprus claim exclusive rights.

The crisis prompted Greece to announce a major new arms shopping spree, including French fighter jets and new frigates. Greek defense minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said on Wednesday that the armaments programme is expected to cost about €10 billion.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also said on Wednesday that Athens is prepared to enter talks with Ankara over marine zone limits and, if these prove futile, to seek arbitration from an international court. But he said Turkey must take action to reduce regional tension before the negotiations can start.

Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state, says it has every right to prospect for oil and gas in those waters and won't accept being "hemmed in" by Greek and Cypriot claims.

Regarding EU foreign policy matters, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that EU countries should speed up the decision-making process. She said in some foreign policy matters decisions should be taken by a qualified majority and not by unanimity as is the case now. By changing the rules, smaller countries like Cyprus could lose out.

"What will play the most important role in decision-making should be the European interest and not the national interest of some states," Christodoulides explained.

"If we do not first determine what the EU's interest is, it will be very difficult for Cyprus and many other member states to agree to such a qualified majority decision making on foreign policy decisions."

The EU summit to discuss possible sanctions on Belarus and Turkey has been postponed to 1-2 October.