EU breaks deadlock to impose Belarus sanctions, Turkey on notice

European Union leaders broke a diplomatic deadlock on Friday to impose sanctions on Belarus, after reassuring the Republic of Cyprus that the bloc would also punish Turkey if it continued to drill for oil and gas in disputed areas of the Mediterranean.

The deal, hammered out after hours of negotiations, will impose sanctions on about 40 officials accused of rigging August’s presidential election in Belarus although the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, is not among those singled out.

“No. Lukashenko is not on the current list, but of course we will follow the situation, we will follow developments,” Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said after meeting EU leaders.

Still, the deal allows the EU to deliver on its promise to support pro-democracy protesters in Belarus’ capital Minsk and regain some credibility after weeks of delays.

“The European Union is taking action against those who stand in the way of democracy,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after fraught discussions among the 27 EU member states that dragged past midnight. “I think that is an important signal.”

While Britain and Canada have already announced sanctions, the impasse in the EU, where decisions require unanimity, has dented the credibility of the bloc’s foreign policy, diplomats say.

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