Turkey’s president has cautioned foreign companies not to “overstep the mark” amid a standoff over natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean. Turkish ships are blocking a drilling rig from reaching an area off Cyprus.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday issued a warning to neighboring Greece and Cyprus as well as foreign companies not to encroach on Turkey’s sovereignty.
“Right now, our warships, air force and other security units are following developments in the region closely with the authority to make any kind of intervention if necessary,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.
“We advise the foreign companies who are conducting activities off Cyprus, relying on the Greek side, not to be an instrument to businesses that exceed their limit and power.”
Ankara came under fire this week after its warships began blocking a rig from reaching a location off the coast of Cyprus, where Italian energy company Eni is scheduled to drill for gas.
Standoff at sea
Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told state broadcaster RIK that the rig remained anchored in the eastern Mediterranean, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the drilling target off the southeastern coast. He said both the government and Eni were determined to see the drilling go ahead as planned.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, meanwhile, said he hoped to find a “shared solution, respecting international law and in the interests of Eni, the countries in the region and of the two Cypriot communities.”
In 1974, Cyprus was divided into a Greek-Cypriot south, where the internationally recognized government is seated, and a Turkish-Cypriot north, which only Turkey recognizes.
Turkey is against drilling, saying the act disregards the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the island’s natural resources. It also claims the area Cyprus has designated for exploratory drilling.
However, the Cypriot government says that it has the sovereign right to drill for gas and will share any income equitably if the island is reunified.
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Greece’s Foreign Ministry has condemned what it calls Turkey’s “blatant violation” of Cyprus’ sovereign rights, as well as its disregard for international law. It added that Turkey’s “provocative” behavior wasn’t appropriate for a country that has worked to join the European Union.
EU warns Turkey
European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva on Monday cautioned Turkey to respect the territory of EU member states and to avoid ratcheting up tensions.
“Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to good neighborly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state,” Andreeva said.
In a post on his official Twitter account, European Council President Donald Tusk wrote that he had spoken to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and called on Turkey to “avoid threats or actions” against EU members and to commit to “peaceful dispute settlement.”
Cyprus became a member of the European Union in 2004, but only the southern part of the island enjoys full benefits.
av,nm/aw (AP, dpa)