ENERGY: After EU imposes sanctions Turkey determined to keep drilling off Cyprus

Turkey defiantly says it will keep drilling off Cyprus despite EU foreign ministers approving a first batch of sanctions against Ankara over its illegal activity in the island’s exclusive economic zone.

Brussels has suspending talks on an air transport agreement, urged European Investment Bank to review it’s lending to Turkey, the EU will also reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year.

Ministers warned that additional targeted measures were being looked if Turkey escalated its action.

But a defiant Turkey said it would continue to drill off Cyprus whatever pressure the EU applies for it to stop.

The decisions will not affect in the slightest our country’s determination to continue hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

It said the EU’s failure to mention Turkish Cypriots in its decisions showed how biased and partisan the EU is on the subject of Cyprus.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued his own warning last week that his country would step up drilling activities off Cyprus if the EU moved ahead with sanctions.

Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas off Cyprus.

The EU ministers repeated the serious immediate negative impact that Turkey’s illegal actions are having on EU-Turkey relations and called on Ankara to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights in line with international law.

They also welcomed the Cypriot government’s invitation to Turkey to negotiate the borders of their respective exclusive economic zones and continental shelf.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and claims 44% of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone as its own, according to Cyprus government officials. Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north claim another 25%.

Turkey contends that it’s protecting its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s hydrocarbon deposits. Cypriot officials, however, accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas.

Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 68 kilometres off the island’s west coast.

Nicosia has licensed ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Italy’s Eni to carry out gas drilling in blocks, or areas, off the island’s southern coastline. At least three significant gas deposits have so far been discovered there.

Source: The Financial Mirror