Turkey rejects EU sanctions threat over Cyprus

Turkey rejects EU sanctions threat over Cyprus

The European Council’s threat of sanctions against Turkey over its “illegal drilling” for natural gas in the Republic of Cyprus’ territorial waters has been brushed aside by Ankara.

Turkey has two fossil-fuel drill ships operating near Cyprus with the first, Fatih, dispatched in early May off the coast near Paphos.

Turkey launched another drill ship, the Yavuz, on Thursday for fossil-fuel prospecting in July off the northwest coast of Cyprus.

Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, nor therefore its jurisdiction over the Cypriot exclusive economic zone.

The EU government leaders in Brussels said they would “monitor developments [and be] ready to respond in full solidarity with Cyprus” by taking “targeted measures”.

The European Council asked Turkey to “show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from any such actions”.

Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “What Turkey is doing in the territorial waters of Cyprus is totally unacceptable” and measures would “not be soft”.

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Turkey will continue to defend the interests of [Turkish Cyprus] along with its own interests.”

Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades said the EU’s solidarity had brought “utmost satisfaction”. Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told the media that for “the first time” the EU had decided an “unlawful act against a member [would] have particular consequences”.

The council said the commission – the executive branch – and the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign and security department, had been asked to look at “options for appropriate measures without delay”.

“The European Council endorses the invitation to the commission and the EEAS to submit options for appropriate measures without delay, including targeted measures,” the leaders’ statement said.

Ahead of the talks, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Turkey was threatening to drill off the Aegean island of Kastellorizo, which might provoke military action from Athens.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on the European Union to “not show weakness [in response to Turkey’s] illegal activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone”. The US State Department said Turkey’s drilling was “highly provocative”.

In December 2017, Erdogan said he wanted to renegotiate an early 20th-century agreement marking the maritime boundaries of Turkey and Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriot prime minister Ersin Tatar has said Ankara and Turkish Cyprus would not be intimidated by EU measures and said Greek Cyprus and its allies were “trying to exclude Turkey from the region. They dream of usurping our rights.”


Turkey’s navy is increasingly active in the eastern Mediterranean. Picture credit: US Navy

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