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Angered over EU sanctions, Turkey threatens to release IS prisoners

The probability of Turkey joining the EU decreases as the dispute over Cyprus worsens. European countries mull over putting economic sanctions on Turkey, and Erdogan in retaliation threatened severe consequences.

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alerted the European Nations on Tuesday that it would release all captured Islamic State prisoners and ship them off to Europe after European Union agreed on sanctions over Cyprus drilling.

Speaking to the reporters prior to his US visit, Erdogan said that he would keep sending the IS militants to their home countries even if they don’t want to keep them.

Erdogan’s response comes a day after European Union foreign ministers agreed on economic sanctions over Turkey’s drilling off the coast of Cyprus. EU believes that Turkey had violated Cyprus’ maritime economic zone by drilling off the divided island. It has agreed to work on a legal framework for travel bans and asset freezes but hasn’t announced the names yet.

Turkey, however, believes that it is restricted to its own continental shelf and is operating in the area where Turkish Cypriots have rights. It is no mood to halt the drilling process.

Read more: Tayyib Erdogan: A New Turkish Sultan and A Caliph in Making

Two EU diplomats believe that this agreement might force Turkey to reevaluate its actions and put an end to the illegal drilling activities that it’s involved in. Earlier this week, Cyprus-Greece-Egypt jointly stated that Turkey’s drilling operations had violated international law.

The EU diplomats further said that the asset freezes and travel bans are most likely to target the Turkish military and the captains of the drilling ships.

The division of Cyprus took place in 1974 after a Greek-inspired coup triggered the Turkish invasion. Since then, it has been a disputed territory. Peacemakers have put in a lot of effort to solve this issue but all in vain. The discovery of offshore resources has further complicated the negotiation process.

Turkey is a formal candidate to join the EU but these sanctions will probably lower the probability of it joining the biggest trade bloc in the near future. Moreover, Turkey is not budging from its stance and is warning EU that the negotiations over Cyprus might end.

“Hey EU, know this: Turkey is not one of those countries you have come to know until now. We are a country that sits at the negotiating table with you,’’ said Erdogan. “These negotiations might suddenly end”, he added.

Read more: ‘No ceasefire until victory’, says defiant Erdogan

Criticizing Erdogan’s anti-democratic government, some EU states say that he should not even be considered for the membership. Erdogan has lately come under fire for his undemocratic style of leadership. His opponents are also accusing him of transforming Turkey into a radical Muslim state.

Both the EU and Turkey aren’t willing to show any flexibility. It seems like this dispute has no end.

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