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EU leaders overcome Cyprus veto, agree to Belarus sanctions

European Union leaders agreed early Friday to impose sanctions on senior officials in Belarus accused of falsifying presidential election results and leading a crackdown on peaceful protesters, after unblocking a veto against the move by one of the EU's smallest member countries.

EU leaders overcome Cyprus veto, agree to Belarus sanctions


In an embarrassing standoff, Cyprus had insisted that its EU partners take action against Turkey for its energy exploration work in disputed waters off the Mediterranean island nation's coast before it would agree to the Belarus sanctions.

But after several hours of talks into the night, the leaders agreed on a strong statement of support for Cyprus, as well as for Greece, and a stern warning to Turkey that it could face punitive measures if it continues the undersea drilling work. 

“We have to decided today to implement the sanctions," European Council President Charles Michel told reporters after chairing the summit in Brussels.

“It's very important to do what we decided a few weeks ago,” and to send a signal that “we are credible.” Michel said that a special written procedure would be launched on Friday to impose sanctions on about 40 Belarus officials. The political row has tarnished the EU's image. It is also unusual in that all 27 EU member countries, including Cyprus, reject the result of the August 9 election that returned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to power for a sixth term.

They all want a new election and agree that sanctions should be slapped on dozens of officials, perhaps even the leader once dubbed Europe's last dictator.

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