The European Commission (EC) may suspend negotiations with Turkey over a proposed Open Skies treaty given Ankara's recent move to begin drilling for oil and gas inside Cyprus's exclusive economic zone.

“In light of Turkey’s continued and new illegal drilling activities, the (EU) decides to suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) and agrees not to hold further meetings of the high-level dialogues for the time being," a draft EU statement seen by Reuters last week said.

Though under consideration since 2018, talks over the proposed Open Skies deal, akin to that signed between the EU and the United States, began in earnest in February this year when a Turkish ministerial delegation visited Brussels.

However, any such agreement would have to have consent from all 28 EU members states - the Republic of Cyprus included. Given that the CATA would grant Turkish carriers access to all points within the EU, Cyprus is unlikely to concede to the treaty in light of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the subsequent establishment of the de facto, but internationally unrecognized, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkey has positioned two drilling rigs in Cyprus's EEZ - one off the western coast and another off its eastern coast. The Republic of Cyprus discovered natural gas in areas off the south of the island, and although tenders have been awarded, no extraction has yet taken place.

Turkey disputes the rights of the island to explore for gas, and, according to the Anadolu news agency, has warned Nicosia that unless it accepts a cooperation proposal put forward by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, it will continue drilling.

However, the president of the European Council of ministers, Donald Tusk, last week tweeted that Turkey's continued provocation would force Brussels to "respond in full solidarity".

According to Reuters, aside from the suspension of CATA talks, the EU may also reduce pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and has also called on the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending.

Given the proposal is a draft, its actual contents may change depending on the circumstances.