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Athens and Ankara in war of words over Cyprus drilling

TAGS: Cyprus

The acrimony between Greece and Turkey over Ankara’s objections to Cyprus’s right to drill for natural gas within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) continued Thursday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu threatening to take action against the Greek Cypriots for acting “unilaterally.”

The threats emanating from Ankara drew a stern response from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who likened Turkish statements – since talks to reunify the island collapsed last week – to a barking guard dog.

“I remember a saying that I always keep in my mind, that the best guard dog is not the one that barks...good guard dogs don’t need to bark,” he said during joint statements with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Thessaloniki, ahead of Thursday’s trilateral summit of Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian leaders. “We don’t bark that much, but, I believe, we effectively defend our country’s sovereign rights,” he added.

Referring to the failed talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, Tsipras decried Turkey’s stance as that of a neighbor that does not respect international law, and reiterated that Greece is committed to continuing discussions to reach an agreement.

Athens has blamed the breakdown on Turkey’s insistence to maintain rights of intervention on Cyprus and to keep its troops there in the event of a settlement, in contravention of international law.

Earlier in the day, Cavusoglu said that Turkey was considering steps against Nicosia for moving ahead with drilling operations for natural gas, to which, he added, Turkish Cypriot also have rights to.

Cavusoglu made his remarks a day after the West Capella drilling vessel, operated by France’s Total and Italy’s Eni, arrived in block 11 of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to commence operations. He said the ship’s arrival demonstrated the “insincerity” of the Greek Cypriots at the Cyprus peace talks which collapsed last Friday.

As reported by Kathimerini on Wednesday, the drilling ship’s movements are being monitored from a distance by the Turkish frigates Gokceada and Gaziantep, but there have been no reports of harassment.

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