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Cyprus Optimistic EU to Deliver Tougher Stance against Turkey in Offshore Gas Spat

Cyprus Optimistic EU to Deliver Tougher Stance against Turkey in Offshore Gas Spat

Tuesday, 18 June, 2019 - 10:45
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. (Getty Images)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades expressed on Tuesday his confidence that the European Union would adopt a tougher stance against Turkey in an escalating dispute over offshore oil and gas, which is also jeopardizing EU enlargement talks.

“I’m optimistic ... that the European Union will deliver stronger messages from what they have until today, and that is our objective,” Anastasiades told reporters in Nicosia.

EU member Cyprus on Monday threatened to block any agreement to admit new members to the European Union unless Brussels toughens its line toward Turkey over offshore drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek Cypriot government says the drilling violates Cyprus’s exclusive commercial area.

A Turkish drill ship has been docked west of Cyprus since early May, effectively staking a claim to an area also claimed by Cyprus.

Cyprus and Greece say the vessel is encroaching into Cyprus's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Turkey says the area is on its continental shelf.

Later this week, a second Turkish vessel is due to set off for a location to the east of the island.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday the European Council should “'unreservedly condemn Turkey’s illegal actions.”

Tsipras spoke by phone with European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

"The Prime Minister stressed that the European Council should examine specific measures against those involved in these illegal activities, if Turkey insists on violating international law," a statement from Tsipras's office said.

On Sunday, the premier said Greece and Cyprus will push their EU partners to penalize Turkey, including the possible option of sanctions, if Ankara is verified to have started drilling for gas west of Cyprus.

Greece is a close ally of the government in Nicosia and also has its own decades-old disputes with neighboring Turkey on issues relating to airspace in the Aegean Sea, and mineral rights in the same region.

Turkey and the internationally recognized Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction over areas around Cyprus, a region thought to be rich in natural gas.

Cyprus first discovered offshore gas reserves in 2011, which led to other discoveries. Turkey says any natural resources around the ethnically-split island also belong to Turkish Cypriots. They proclaimed their own independent state in 1983, but were founding partners of the Cypriot republic established after independence from Britain in 1960.

The east Mediterranean island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief coup orchestrated by the military junta then ruling Greece. Relations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities have festered since 1963, when a power-sharing agreement crumbled amid violence.

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