As Turkey pushes to expand its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has urged Ankara to respect the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus.
In response to questions about Turkish plans to begin hydrocarbon exploration near Greek islands, Borrell said on Tuesday the EU was monitoring developments while being “in close contact” with Athens and Nicosia.
“We are in close contact with our colleagues, the foreign ministers of Greece and also Cyprus, in order to follow the situation of the drillings, and we are calling on Turkey to stop drilling in the areas where there is the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) or territorial waters of Cyprus and Greece,” said Borrell, adding that the Foreign Affairs Council “already delivered a strong message addressed to Turkey.”
Borrell said that Turkey’s violations were an issue of “utmost importance” with regard to Ankara’s EU membership talks.
His comments have coincided with a diplomatic marathon that Athens has embarked on with the aim of mobilizing permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the EU and NATO to bring pressure to bear on Ankara after the publication in the Turkish government gazette of a map outlining areas of the Greek continental shelf where Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has applied for exploration permits.
However, the Turkish Foreign Ministry was defiant on Tuesday, saying Ankara would proceed normally with its planning, describing the areas up to six nautical miles from Rhodes, Kassos, Karpathos and Crete as being part of the Turkish continental shelf.
Meanwhile, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s National Security Council announced Tuesday that Turkey would continue to protect its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, “without any compromise.”