EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said Turkey is moving further away from EU accession following its current illegal drilling activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A ministerial release following the General Affairs Council Meeting on Tuesday states that the council “expresses serious concerns over Turkey’s current illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and deplores that Turkey has not yet responded to the European Union’s repeated calls to cease such activities.”

Commissioner Hahn said that Turkey’s recent actions could result in sanctions being taken against the EU member candidate. The council called on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus, an EU member state. “Turkey must avoid threats and actions that damage good neighbourly relations, normalise its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and respect the sovereignty of all EU member states over their territorial sea and airspace as well as all their sovereign rights, including inter alia the right to explore and exploit natural resources, in accordance with EU and international law, including UNCLOS.”

The EU “stands ready to respond appropriately and in full solidarity” with Cyprus, the Council added.

“The Council invites the Commission and the European External Action Service to submit options for appropriate measures without delay,” the GAC concluded.

“Turkey continues to move further away from the European Union. Recalling its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council notes that Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen.”

Greek diplomatic sources told the the Greek Athens News Agency that this was the first time the EU has taken action against Turkey for its violation of international laws.