The EU and US have condemned Turkey’s decision to begin offshore drilling operations in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone, writes Catherine Feore.
On Saturday (4 May), the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini issued a statement expressing grave concern over Turkey’s announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. The High Representative called on Turkey to show restraint, and to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and refrain from any such illegal action to which the European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus.
When asked about the continued drilling and any further action, the European External Action Service’s spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said that the EU’s High Representative was clear and that the Council had already condemned Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean in March 2018. However, she refused to speculate on what further action would be taken, but said that diplomatic contacts would continue.
The US State Department also issued a statement describing the situation as “highly provocative and risked raising tensions in the region”: “The United States is deeply concerned by Turkey’s announced intentions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its Exclusive Economic Zone… We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani called for restraint and recalled that the European Parliament had already issued a resolution on Turkish action causing tension in the EEZ of Cyprus in 2014: “Turkey’s intention to drill within the EEZ of Cyprus is a violation of international law. The Republic of Cyprus has the full and sovereign right to explore and exploit natural resources within its EEZ.
“On behalf of the European Parliament, I reiterate our full solidarity with the government and the people of Cyprus. We stand with Cyprus in safeguarding its rights underpinned by international and European law.”
Turkey rejected the statement from the EU’s High Representative said that Turkey’s hydrocarbon related activities in the Eastern Mediterranean region are based on its legitimate rights stemming from international law. In a statement from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is was claimed that they are protecting their own rights and interests within their continental shelf, as well as those of the Turkish Cypriots around the Cyprus Island. Turkey showed no signs of backing down, stating: “To date Turkey has not refrained from taking the necessary steps in this context, and will not do so in the future.
“In fact, it is the Greek Cypriot Administration which has not abstained from irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region, by disregarding the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who are the co-owners of the Cyprus Island, … refusing every proposal of cooperation and insisting on its unilateral activities in the region despite all our warnings.”
They added: “Furthermore, those who have not taken any steps towards the resolution of this issue for years do not have the right to give advice to us.”