European Union leaders accused Turkey of stoking tensions in the eastern Mediterranean after Cyprus said Turkish vessels, including warships, entered its waters to explore for energy.
The show of EU solidarity at a summit on Friday in Brussels marks a diplomatic victory for the Cypriot government, which had pressed the 28-nation bloc for a “resolute reaction” to Turkey’s hunt for oil and natural gas off the coast of Cyprus. Turkey has occupied the northern third of Cyprus since 1974.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades says Turkey dispatched a scientific vessel along with warships to Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone this month to scan the sea bed for fuel deposits. He says the step violated Cyprus’s sovereignty and the rights of companies already prospecting in the area.
In their joint statement after the two-day summit, the EU leaders “expressed serious concern about the renewed tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and urged Turkey to show restraint and to respect Cyprus’s sovereignty over its territorial sea and Cyprus’s sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.”
The Cyprus-Turkey spat, in addition to highlighting the geopolitical risks of energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, shows the obstacles to Cypriot reunification and to Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
Because of Turkey’s seismic surveys, Cyprus has suspended reunification talks with Turkish-Cypriot leaders and plans to veto the opening of any more chapters in Turkey’s accession talks with the EU.
In their statement on Friday, the EU government heads said they “considered it more important than ever to ensure a positive climate so that negotiations for a comprehensive Cyprus settlement can resume.”
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras presented the Cypriot argument at the summit because Anastasiades fell ill yesterday in Brussels. Anastasiades was hospitalized in the Belgian capital after prolonged nosebleeds resulting from high blood pressure, according to Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides.