Merkel: Turkey deal clears way for Belarus sanctions

A summit of European leaders in Brussels agreed after lengthy and difficult discussions that they wanted constructive ties to Turkey while protecting the rights of fellow bloc members Cyprus and Greece in the Mediterranean, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Agreement on a common EU approach towards Turkey's energy prospecting in the Mediterranean satisfies a key demand of Cyprus, which had been blocking sanctions against political leaders of Belarus.

"That we could now agree to those sanction is an important signal because it strengthens the hand of those who are protesting for freedom of opinion in Belarus," she told journalists.

The EU is pushing for Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko to enter a dialogue with opposition protesters after he claimed victory in elections that most European countries regard as having been rigged