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Cyprus says EU condemnation of Turkey is unprecedented

CHARLIE CHARALAMBOUS

TAGS: Cyprus, Turkey, Defense, Diplomacy, Energy

President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday hailed as "unprecedented" the EU’s condemnation of Turkey for blocking Cyprus’s energy search in the East Med.

“For the first time there is an unprecedented strong condemnation of Turkey’s continuing illegal activity in the Eastern Mediterranean, which of course includes the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus,” Anastasiades told an oil and gas forum.

“I would like to express my satisfaction with the strong expression of solidarity by the EU,” he added.

Last week the European Council said it “strongly condemns Turkey's continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean… and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece.”

It called on Turkey to “cease these actions and respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and International Law.”

The statement came after a drillship contracted by ENI to explore offshore Cyprus abandoned mission after Turkish warships blocked its path for several weeks.

At a summit in Varna, Bulgaria on Monday top EU officials urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to improve relations with Cyprus – a country Ankara does not recognize.

Gunboat diplomacy

Anastasiades on Tuesday accused Turkey of “gunboat diplomacy” for “physically obstructing Italian energy firm ENI from reaching its planned drilling area in exploration Block 3 of our Exclusive Economic Zone.”

“These illegal acts and provocations not only undermine the interests and objectives of Cyprus, but also the EU’s strategy goal of achieving energy security and diversification of sources and routes,” said Anastasiades.

Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in the Mediterranean after Turkey's warships blocked the Italian drilling vessel on February 9.

But Anastasiades said he wanted to cooperate with Ankara.

"We mean business when we say we want Turkey as an ally. But not as one who is a troublemaker or one who is intervening with the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus."

The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the East Med risks further complicating stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus following the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks last year.

Turkey and Cyprus have long argued over the eastern Mediterranean, and Ankara has been stringent in defending the claims of Turkish Cypriots for a share of energy resources.

But Anastasiades argued that the real aim of Turkey was to control energy supply routes in the region.

“Turkey’s actions are aimed at achieving the country’s long-term goal of becoming an exclusive energy supply hub for the European Union… to control the natural gas supply from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.”

He said Turkey’s argument about protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots were “unfounded”.

“We have repeatedly and publicly stated that the natural resources of the Republic of Cyprus belong to all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike.”

Cyprus expects more exploratory drills, as US giant ExxonMobil with Qatar Petroleum planning two drills in the second half of 2018.

[Kathimerini Cyprus]

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