European Union pondering measures against Turkey drilling in E. Med

Turkey rejects Greek EU claims that drilling off Cyprus illegitimate

In Athens, Ankara and Nicosia, diplomats fear the showdown could trigger military confrontation, and worry Erdoğan may be looking for a showdown to divert attention from domestic troubles.

The United States and Egypt also joined a chorus of criticism this week.

These measures are amongst a variety of proposals that EU authorities' envoys will focus on Wednesday in Brussels and will restrict the European Investment Bank's sovereign-backed lending in Turkey and make sure a lower of some 146 million euros ($163 million) in help for next year, in line with a person accustomed to the matter. The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a dispute between European Union member Cyprus and Turkey, which last month sent a second ship, the Yavuz, to search for oil and gas in the region. Turkish officials say the drillships Fatih and Yavuz will drill for gas, which has prompted protests from Cyprus.

The EU's European Council said it would respond "in full solidarity with Cyprus" in light of Turkey's ongoing explorations, and would take "appropriate measures".

The EU and Turkey signed a swap deal in 2016 but only a relative handful of refugees and migrants deemed ineligible for asylum - in Greece where they've been stuck after the bloc closed its borders to them - have been sent back to Turkey.

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The EU is set to curb contacts and funding for Ankara in retaliation for what it calls Turkey's "illegal" drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus, Reuters reported, citing a draft statement.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has repeatedly warned global oil companies commissioned by the Greek Cypriot government not to participate in the search for underwater deposits.

On Thursday, national envoys in Brussels were discussing a joint decision to punish Ankara over what the European Union sees as Turkish interference with Cyprus' exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus has argued that while Turkey occupies the northern part of the island, the waters off its coast remain its exclusively, with no connection to Turkey. Erdogan essentially dared Cyprus to try to take them into custody so far.

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