Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has hailed as “unprecedented” the European Union‘s condemnation of Turkey for blocking his government’s search for offshore oil and gas of the divided island.
Anastasiades spoke in reaction to a statement made by EU leaders on Thursday, condemning Turkey for blocking of a private drill ship off Cyprus in February.
“For the first time, there is an unprecedented strong condemnation of Turkey’s continuing illegal activity in the eastern Mediterranean, which of course includes the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus,” Anastasiades told an oil and gas forum in Nicosia.
“I would like to express my satisfaction with the strong expression of solidarity by the EU,” he added.
Following the meeting in Bulgaria, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it was “indispensable” for Turkey to improve its relationship with Greece and Cyprus.
Three days before that meeting, the European Council, made up of leaders of the EU member states, called on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with the EU and international law.
Ankara slams EU
Turkey harshly condemned the statement by the European Council.
“Such wordings solely based on the Greek Cypriot and Greek claims are unacceptable and create an opportunity for some other countries to hide behind them as well,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday, adding the EU cannot be an objective actor on the Cyprus dispute.
Turkey has vowed to prevent the Greek Cypriot-licensed companies from exploring for oil or gas around the island, claiming that some areas of Cyprus’ offshore exclusive economic zone fall under its jurisdiction or that of Turkish Cypriots.
In February, Turkey’s navy blocked a drill ship of Italian company Eni from entering a zone off Cyprus’s east coast, which the European Council called illegal.
The Turkish Cypriot side, through a Turkey-based state-owned company, is set to also start exploration and exploitation of natural gas and oil reserves off Cyprus, unless the Greek Cypriots halt their own activities in the same manner.
“We will continue to monitor the Greek Cypriot actions on the hydrocarbon issue and take balancing moves in order to protect the legitimate rights of the Turkish Cypriots,” Ozdil Nami, the Turkish Cypriot economy and energy minister, told Al Jazeera in a recent interview.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey militarily intervened on the island in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup. Ankara said it acted in line with a treaty of guarantee, signed in 1960 when the Republic of Cyprus was founded.
Since the establishment of the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the north has been described as “occupied part of Cyprus” by the UN Security Council.
Repeated diplomatic efforts to end the partition have failed, as did the latest attempt to reunify the island through talks held in Switzerland in July, despite efforts by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.