Athens, Nicosia satisfied by EU leaders’ stance toward Ankara

A reference in Friday’s European Council conclusions calling on Turkey to respect Cyprus’s sovereign rights left Athens and Nicosia content with the outcome of the European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels.

In their joint statement, the EU leaders expressed “serious concern” at rising tension in the Eastern Mediterranean after Turkey sent a seismic research vessel into Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

They called on Turkey to “to show restraint, and to respect Cyprus’s sovereignty over its territorial sea and Cyprus’s sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.” The leaders added that it is “more important than ever to ensure a positive climate” for reunification talks on the island.

Nicosia suspended the negotiations, which resumed earlier this year, in protest at Turkey’s failure to respect its EEZ.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras represented Cyprus in the EU talks after Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades fell ill. “There is an important decision in which Europe calls on Turkey to respect Cyprus, its territorial waters and its sovereign right in the EEZ,” Samaras said during a news conference after the meeting.

The Cyprus government spokesman said he was “very satisfied” with the EU leaders’ statement. The final version of the conclusions came after three drafts, with Athens and Nicosia only being satisfied with the final one. British Prime Minister David Cameron was the only leader to suggest that the language regarding Turkey should be toned down. This reportedly led to a disagreement between him and Samaras. German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed Cyprus’s right to have its own EEZ.

In Athens, Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos also issued a message to Turkey, saying “a country cannot have ambitions to become an EU member if it does not recognize one of the other members.”

Nicosia was less satisfied with the stance of the United Nations. The organization’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and special envoy Espen Barth Eide called on both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to try to ease the tension on the island so reunification talks can resume. The US State Department issued a similar call through its spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

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