Brussels stands firm behind Cyprus urging Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of the EU Member State in a dispute over energy wealth, said EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.
During a visit to Cyprus, Barnier reiterated the stern message given to Turkey by EU leaders during a summit in Romania earlier this month.
We express grave concern over Turkey’s announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, Barnier told reporters.
We urgently call on Turkey to show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprusrefrain from any such illegal action, he added.
The top EU official also suggested there would be consequences if Ankara persisted when saying the European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has slammed Turkey’s drilling bid inside Cyprus waters as a “new invasion” and garnered support from fellow European Union leaders.
Ironically, it has protested to Britain for taking a different stance describing comments by a UK Foreign Office minister as unacceptable.
Washington, Israel and Egypt have all come out against Turkey’s incursion into the island’s EEZ.
Turkey’s actions, which are de-stabilising in the Eastern Mediterranean region, have drawn broad condemnation from the international community, said Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides after talks with Barnier.
He said Barnier was well aware of the need for the EU to react collectively and decisively to this flagrant violation of a Member State’s sovereign rights.
Turkey says its actions abide by international law and that it’s drilling inside its continental shelf, but it does not recognize Cyprus as a sovereign or EU member state.
Cyprus has accelerated the development of offshore gas deposits and has signed deals with energy giants Eni, Total and ExxonMobil that have seen them carry out exploratory drilling.
US energy giant ExxonMobil discovered the largest natural gas reserve off the coast of Cyprus in February.
The “world-class discovery” is one of the largest finds worldwide in recent years with an estimated five to eight trillion cubic feet (141.5 to 226.5 cubic metres) of natural gas.
Ankara argues that such exploration deprives the Turkish Cypriot minority of benefiting from the island’s natural wealth.
In February 2018, a drill ship for Italy’s Eni abandoned an attempt to search for gas off Cyprus after it was blocked by Turkish warships.
Turkey occupies the northern third of the island since invading in 1974 in response to a Greek military junta-engineered coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.
The northern part of the island was declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognised by Ankara.
Source: The Financial Mirror