Rough Seas in Eastern Med: EU Warns Turkey Against Drilling Near Greece & Cyprus

Written by | Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
@Eubulletin

French President Emmanuel Macron has slammed Turkey for its “violation” of the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus and called for sanctions against the country for encroaching on EU member states’ territorial waters, as tensions mount between Ankara and Athens. While Ankara has rejected such claims, saying Turkey is well within its right, the French president reiterated “France’s full solidarity with Cyprus and also with Greece in the face of Turkey’s violation of their sovereignty” just before talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades at the Elysee Palace in Paris last Thursday (23 July). Referring specifically to Turkey’s plans for energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Makron also said that “it is not acceptable for the maritime space of a member state of our Union to be violated or threatened. Those who contribute must be sanctioned.”
Cyprus and Greece have long accused Turkey of undermining their sovereignty by continuing to pursue energy resources within their territorial waters. Last year, the EU adopted a sanctions regime targeting Turkey over its unauthorized gas drilling in Cypriot waters, which provides the Union with a way “to sanction individuals or entities responsible for, or involved in, unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.” Athens said on Wednesday (22 July) Greece‘s navy had deployed ships in the Aegean in “heightened readiness” after Turkey’s announcement of its plans for energy exploration near a Greek island in an area it claims is within Turkey’s continental shelf. Turkey has clashed with Greece and the EU over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean amid a scramble for resources following the discovery of huge gas reserves in recent years.
Security issues and energy in the area are the subject of “power struggles, particularly of Turkey and Russia”, about which the Union was not doing enough, the French president said. However, Ankara has steadfastly rejected claims that its energy-related activities in the region are transgressing Greek or Cypriot sovereignty. Instead, the Turkish government has asserted that its drilling and related activities are well within its right – or the right of the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus – to explore areas claimed by Cyprus and Greece. Turkey wants that “all natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean to be shared fairly,” Ankara said in a recent statement. These uneasy relations between Ankara and Athens have been futher aggravated by Turkey’s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. Both countries, who are otherwise NATO allies, have exchanged harsh words a day (25 July) after Islamic prayers were held at the ancient site for the first time in 90 years.

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