Brussels, Oct 2 (efe-epa).- European Union leaders concluded a two-day summit on Friday at which they discussed a range of issues, including the crisis in Belarus, tensions with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and the EU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The heads of government of the 27 EU member states agreed to impose sanctions on dozens of Belarussian officials suspected of helping rig the presidential election held in August — which president Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won by a landslide — and of violently cracking down on thousands of peaceful protesters who denounced the poll as fraudulent.
In a statement, the Council said: “EU leaders once more condemned the unacceptable violence by Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, as well as intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions following the presidential elections, the results of which the EU does not recognise.”
The sanctions, which do not target Lukashenko, include a travel ban and an asset freeze, the Council said.
While the EU leaders had already agreed on punitive action against Belarus in August, Nicosia had been blocking the move until it was satisfied the EU would tackle the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey has stepped up its offshore gas exploration activities in waters around Greece and Cyprus.
“While we affirm our willingness to enter a political dialogue (with Turkey), we also express our determination to defend our principles and values,” European Council president Charles Michel said.
“That’s why we reiterate our support for Greece and Cyprus. We are ready to engage in a positive agenda with Turkey, if Turkey puts an end to unilateral actions that break international law.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, welcomed the sanctions against Minsk and praised the EU’s firm position against Turkey.
She said the EU leaders had had “extensive, at times difficult discussions” at the first session of the summit, which began on Thursday afternoon and lasted over nine hours until early Friday morning.
“We have pulled ourselves together and can point to results,” she said.
The summit also addressed the bloc’s coordinated response to Covid-19, both in terms of its economic support packages to aid struggling industries and sectors as well as its approach to developing and distributing a vaccine.
“We took the decision to make more efforts to work together to secure vaccines,” Michel said, adding: “vaccines should be considered a common good.” EFE-EPA