EU ready to act against Turkey’s drilling activities off Cyprus

The European Union (EU) has announced it would look at taking “appropriate” measures against Turkey over its recent gas and oil drilling activities off Cyprus. The announcement was made on Tuesday at the request of Cyprus and Greece.

The EU’s General Affairs Council (GAC) expressed “serious concerns over Turkey’s current drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean” in a statement following a meeting of ministers in Luxembourg.

The GAC vowed Turkey’s drilling would have a “serious immediate negative impact” across the range of EU-Turkey relations and called on Turkey to show restraint and respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights.

“The Council invites the Commission and the European External Action Service to submit options for appropriate measures without delay,” the statement read.

The GAC’s declaration came in response to the latest Turkish moves. The Turkish drill ship, Fatih, has just started drilling. It had been anchored about 68 kilometers (42 miles) off the southwestern Cypriot resort town of Paphos, with a Turkish navy frigate escorting it, since early May.

Further, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Tuesday a second drilling ship, Yavuz, would be dispatched to the disputed waters on Thursday.

To counteract the GAC’s conclusion, the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement calling on the EU to change its “biased and unrealistic” approach.

The ministry claimed Turkey’s relations with the EU are now tense regarding the Cyprus issue and the continental body’s recent statements had a completely Greek perspective.

On Monday, Cyprus threatened the EU with jeopardizing enlargement talks unless it toughens its stance toward Turkey. Relations between Turkey and Cyprus have been strained on offshore drilling for oil and gas near Northern Cyprus, escalating since early May.

Each conflicting side – including the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) – consider the drilling waters their exclusive economic zone (EEZ), claiming a share in any offshore wealth.

The KKTC proposed the establishment of a joint energy committee to discuss the issues on the island’s energy resources and revenues. Turkey backs the proposal, while Cyprus and Greece reject it.

The Western world, including the United States, are rallying behind Cyprus in the dispute.

The KKTC is a breakaway state in the north of the island recognized only by Turkey.

The island was divided in 1974, after a Turkish invasion in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup by supporters of uniting the island with Greece.

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