NICOSIA – Cyprus and its European Union partners are working to rein in Turkey’s “expansionist policy” in the eastern Mediterranean amid heightened tensions over an offshore search for hydrocarbons, the island nation's president said Tuesday.
President Nicos Anastasiades said that the 27-member bloc needs to take stock of how much leeway it will give an “insolent” Turkey that wants to control the region.
Anastasiades’ remarks came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would “reciprocate” if the EU takes measures censuring Turkey for carrying out a gas search in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.
“Unfortunately, we're talking about an agitator that's seeking to dominate the entire eastern Mediterranean and place under its control a number of countries that ring the eastern Mediterranean," Anastasiades said.
“This is incomprehensible and unacceptable not only on the basis of international justice, but also based on customary friendly relations that neighboring countries should hold."
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and has dispatched warship-escorted ships to drill for gas in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, including in areas where the Cypriot government has licensed international energy companies like French Total and Italy's Eni to drill.
Turkey claims almost half of Cyprus' economic zone and insists it's acting to protect its interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area's energy reserves.
Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cavusoglu held talks Monday with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who traveled in a bid to ease tensions. Turkey's top diplomat said Ankara expects the bloc to act as an “honest broker” with regard to energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean instead of expressing its backing for Cyprus' rights.
Borrell said EU-Turkey relations aren't “passing through the best moment” and called for increased cooperation and dialogue.