Greece, Cyprus pressure EU to act over Turkey gas drilling as Ankara digs in

FAN Editor
FILE PHOTO - Turkish Minister of Energy Fatih Donmez speaks during a ceremony to mark the completion of the sea part of the TurkStream gas pipeline, in Istanbul
FILE PHOTO – Turkish Minister of Energy Fatih Donmez speaks during a ceremony to mark the completion of the sea part of the TurkStream gas pipeline, in Istanbul, Turkey November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

June 18, 2019

ISTANBUL/ATHENS (Reuters) – Cyprus and Greece heaped pressure on the EU on Tuesday to take action against Turkey over gas drilling in disputed waters, as Ankara said it would step up exploration in a move that could further strain ties with Western allies.

Turkey and Cyprus are at odds over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean in a long-simmering conflict which has escalated in the past month, with Cyprus threatening to jeopardize EU enlargement talks if the EU does not take action against Ankara.

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall into the jurisdiction of Turkey or that of Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus says that defining its EEZ is its sovereign right.

A Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, has been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and recently began drilling. Turkey’s energy minister Fatih Donmez was quoted as saying on Tuesday that a second ship, the Yavuz, will be dispatched to the area on Thursday.

“We are now at around 3,000 meters deep. We target to drill to around 5,000-5,500 meters deep from sea level,” Donmez was quoted as saying by Anadolu news agency. “We have 100-120 days of a schedule for this task. We will have reached our targeted point at the end of July,” he said.

EU member Cyprus and its close ally Greece have urged Brussels to take action against Turkey for what they regard as a clear infringement of Cyprus’s sovereign rights. In a phone conversation with European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Brussels should “unreservedly condemn” Turkey’s actions.

Cyprus on Monday threatened to block any agreement to admit new members to the European Union unless Brussels toughens its line toward Turkey. On Tuesday, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he was confident the EU would take a tougher stance toward Turkey.

The Fatih is in an area Turkey considers its continental shelf, while the Yavuz would be dispatched to an area Turkish Cypriots consider they have rights over.

Breakaway north Cyprus, supported by Turkey, claims a share in any offshore wealth as a partner in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.

The United States and the European Union have previously expressed deep concern over Turkey’s plans.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking endeavors have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has increasingly complicated peace negotiations.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Michele Kambas; Editing by Jonathan Spicer/Humeyra Pamuk/Susan Fenton)

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