European Council President Donald Tusk has called on Ankara to respect Cyprus’s territorial integrity after Turkish warships stopped a drillship belonging to Italian energy giant ENI from exploring for gas in Block 3 of the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“I call on Turkey to avoid threats or actions against any EU member and instead commit to good-neighborly relations, peaceful dispute settlement and respect for territorial sovereignty,” Tusk said on Monday after a phone conversation with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
The blockade has been enforced by at least six Turkish warships off the island’s southern coast since Saturday morning.
At the same time Ankara has issued a notice reserving areas for naval exercises that include Block 3 and has used this as a justification not to allow the Saipem 1200 drillship, or any other vessel for that matter, to approach it. Nicosia says the notice, which expires on February 22, violates international law and is legally invalid.
Ankara claims that part of Cyprus’s EEZ belongs to its continental shelf and has accused Nicosia of unilaterally exploring for gas and of ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the island’s occupied north. The situation has also raised concern in Rome as well, with the ANSAmed agency reporting that the Italian Foreign Ministry is monitoring the situation at the “highest level” and has proceeded with all possible diplomatic initiatives to resolve the dispute.