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EU slaps sanctions on Turkish officials over Cyprus drilling

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Thursday slapped sanctions on two senior members of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation and accused them of responsibility for illegal drilling in waters off the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

The EU imposed asset freezes and travel bans in Europe on TPAO Vice-President Mehmet Ferruh Akalin and Deputy Director of Exploration Ali Coscun Namoglu. EU citizens and companies are also banned from providing funds to the two men.

“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 the Republic of Cyprus,” EU headquarters said in a statement.

Turkey annexed the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Greek Cypriot part of the island is an EU member country. Turkey alone recognizes the independence of the north.

Ankara has been carrying out drilling activities as part of an agreement with the island’s Turkish Cypriots and insists that it is protecting both its, and their, rights and interests concerning access to the region’s energy resources.

Cyprus has denounced Turkey as a “pirate state” that flouts international law. It says that any gas exploration deal Ankara has reached with the Turkish Cypriots would be legally invalid under U.N. resolutions.