Reuters

European Union sanctions on Belarus are being delayed by a separate dispute between Cyprus and Turkey over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, four EU diplomats said, in the latest sign of paralysis in the bloc’s foreign policy.

EU foreign ministers gave their political approval for sanctions on senior Belarus officials at a meeting in Berlin late last month over the Aug. 9 elections that the West say was rigged, in a bid to show support for pro-democracy protesters.

EU foreign policy requires consensus among its 27 members.

A Cypriot diplomatic source told Reuters that Nicosia supported the sanctions but has requested time to study the planned EU travel bans and asset freezes because, as one of the EU’s smallest states, the island does not have the organisational capacity to review them quickly.

“We categorically deny blocking and linking the two procedures,” the diplomatic source said of the Belarus and Turkey issues.

However, many EU states feel Cyprus’ request, called a “study reserve” in diplomatic parlance, is a bid to coerce the other 26 states to agree similar punitive measures on Turkey.

Turkey began drilling for oil and gas near Cyprus last year despite warnings from Brussels, amid broader fears of a military escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean as NATO allies Greece and Turkey hold naval drills in the area.

Cyprus’ proposal in June to impose sanctions on more Turkish companies and individuals has not been approved as many EU states, including Germany, want to defuse the Turkey stand-off through dialogue.