İrem UZUN -TDO- Cyprus vetoed attempts by EU national leaders to impose sanctions against some 40 Belarusian officials, including Alexander Lukashenko. Previously, Cyprus threatened to use a veto to block penalties on Belarus over President Alexander Lukashenko's alleged rigged re-election if the European Union refuses to impose stronger sanctions against Turkey for drilling for energy off the island's coast.

The ministers opened the debate after Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikanouskaya called for a so-called brave response against President Alexander Lukashenko. Cyprus, which has good relations with the Lukashenko-supporting Russian government, had wanted the sanctions to be tied to sanctions against Turkey due to a dispute over gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics condemned the actions by Cyprus in a tweet, saying that it "sends a wrong signal to Belarusians, our societies and the whole world".

Cyprus is upset since the EU imposed only soft sanctions on two executives of Turkey's state-run petroleum company for the drilling in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone and wanted meaningful penalties.However, its efforts for tying the Belarus issue to Turkey's drilling off Cyprus has isolated President Nicos Anastasiades who had praised EU tweets and statements of solidarity but then said they weren't working and he wanted tougher action. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday that the EU had to take a clear and swift position on values, “be it in Hong Kong, Moscow or Minsk”, declaring that the EU was “on the side of the people of Belarus,” but she left the Cyprus out.

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