EU Council suspends dialogue with Turkey over drilling off Cyprus coast

MOSCOW The Council of the European Union has suspended high-level dialogue with Turkey in light of conflict around Ankara’s drilling for resources in Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Sputnik news agency reported, quoting a statement from the council on Monday.

In light of Turkey’s continued and new illegal drilling activities, the Council decided to suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and agrees not to hold the Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being.

The Council endorses the Commission’s proposal to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and invites the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending, the statement said.

The row between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey escalated in 2011 when first gas deposits were discovered off the coast of the island. Ankara rejects the EEZ claims of Nicosia. The nations have been at odds over the status of the non-recognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

In less than three months, Turkey sent two ships to explore gas fields off the northeast coast of Cyprus, which it sees as its continental shelf. The move prompted harsh condemnations from Cyprus.

The council has repeatedly called upon Turkey to respect the rights of Cyprus in connection with Ankara’s drilling. In June, it instructed the European Commission and other bodies to immediately submit response options.

Cyprus has been long de facto divided into the Republic of Cyprus and the non-recognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In 1974, Turkey sent its troops to the island in response to an attempted coup by the Greek military.

As a result, Ankara occupied nearly 40 per cent of the country’s territory, where the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed in 1983. Turkey has so far remained the only nation in the world that recognises the republic as a sovereign state.