Turkey says EU measures won't deter it from drilling off Cyprus

Statement by foreign ministry comes after EU takes punitive steps against Ankara's activities in Eastern Mediterranean.

    The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has set off a race to tap underwater resources [Anadolu]
    The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has set off a race to tap underwater resources [Anadolu]

    Turkey has said punitive European Union measures against it will not deter it from continuing to search for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus.

    On Monday, the foreign ministers of the EU agreed to call off high-level political meetings, suspend negotiations on an aviation deal and reduce EU accession funding earmarked for Turkey.

    The ministers of the 28-member bloc, of which Cyprus is a member, also invited the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending.

    In a statement on Tuesday, the Turkish foreign ministry said the EU's moves "will not affect in the slightest our country's determination to continue hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean".

    The ministry said that the bloc's failure to mention Turkish Cypriots in its decisions "showed how biased and partisan the EU is on the subject of Cyprus".

    Opposite claims

    Cyprus has effectively been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces invaded northern Cyprus in response to an Athens-backed Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece

    The country's internationally recognised government is seated in the Greek Cypriot south. Only Turkey recognises a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps some 35,000 troops in the north.

    In recent years, the discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has set off a race to tap underwater resources, sparking a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004.

    Turkey claims to have exploring rights off the island, either through its own continental shelf or in zones where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights over any finds with Greek Cypriots.

    Cyprus rejects the claim, saying that assertion is not only inconsistent with international law, but that Turkey would not accept any international dispute settlement mechanism where its claims could be put to the test.

    "Turkey seems to be decisive about its political position in the Eastern Mediterranean and says that it will continue its activities in there like the other players in the region," Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said.

    Turkey's Yavuz ship recently arrived off eastern Cyprus, becoming the second ship to conduct energy exploratory activities off the coast of Cyprus.

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    The other Turkish vessel, the Fatih, is located off the western coast of the island in an area the Republic of Cyprus claims is its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the maritime zone in which it has rights over its natural resources.

    Earlier this month, Cyprus said it has launched local legal proceedings against three firms that it accused of supporting illegal Turkish oil and gas exploration in its waters.

    It also issued arrest warrants for Fatih's crew, accusing the ship of breaching the republic's sovereign territory.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies