The eu has failed to agree long-awaited sanctions over the crackdown by president alexander lukashenkos regime in belarus, despite appeals by the countrys self-exiled opposition leader for them to be imposed without delay.

Cyprus has blocked action by insisting the eu should also agree sanctions on turkey before it gives the green light, european diplomats said, after a meeting of foreign ministers in brussels on monday ended in deadlock.

The spat which nicosia insists it wants to resolve has highlighted how the system of unanimity in eu foreign policymaking can hobble the 27-member blocs efforts to exert influence internationally. the dispute will now be raised at a meeting of eu leaders this week, at which the eus stand-off with turkey over eastern mediterranean energy reserves will be high on the agenda.

Although there is a clear will to adopt those [belarus] sanctions, it has not been possible today because the required unanimity was not reached, josep borrell, eu foreign policy chief, told reporters after the meeting.

He added: if we are not able to do that, then i understand perfectly our credibility is at stake.

Fellow eu member states have failed to persuade cyprus to drop its resistance, more than five weeks after foreign ministers first agreed in principle to impose belarus sanctions. the bloc has drawn up a list of about 40 people to target over the alleged rigging of last months presidential election and the clampdown on dissent afterwards.

Svetlana tikhanovskaya, the main belarus opposition candidate who fled to neighbouring lithuania after the election, met the eu ministers before their formal gathering and later told reporters the bloc should be more brave and impose sanctions.

She is also pressing the european bloc to take action against more regime figures accused of human rights abuses and to make sure any healthcare aid it gives belarus bypasses mr lukashenkos regime.

[sanctions] are very important in our fight, ms tikhanovskaya said at an open-air press conference at lithuanias mission to the eu. they force so-called authorities to start dialogue with us.

Nicosia has publicly endorsed the idea of belarus sanctions, but says it wants its fellow eu states to follow through on promises for a tougher approach to turkey over its gas exploration in the waters off cyprus. nikos christodoulides, cypriot foreign minister, warned that the eus stance towards third countries accused of breaking international law must be consistent and not la carte.

We remain ready as we have been from the first minute to go ahead on the basis that was agreed, a cypriot official said.

The sanctions dispute has highlighted how a single country or small group can complicate eu foreign policy goals and push for trade-offs on unrelated matters.

But moves towards introducing majority voting have failed to gain ground, as member states are eager to preserve their veto powers on matters they consider of vital national interest.