EU Council Chief Tells Turkey Stop Drilling Off Cyprus

Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades, right, shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk during their meeting at the presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool Photo via AP)

European Council President Donald Tusk has joined a chorus of calls – all ignored – for Turkey to stop drilling for energy in Cyprus’ sovereign waters, what he called an illegal activity further undermining any hopes of Turkey getting into the European Union, 14 years after talks began.

Speaking during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia on the island where Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion, Tusk said he was there “to demonstrate our full solidarity with you in the face of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the waters off the coast of Cyprus,” more of the same rhetoric disregarded by Ankara.

“I reconfirm that the EU stands united behind you. I call on Turkey to end these activities as they do not only undermine the recent efforts to resume Cyprus settlement talks, but they also undermine good neighborly relations between the EU as a whole and Turkey,” he said, something that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t care about anyway.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades met with Tusk, who represents the 28 heads of state for EU member countries, and again pushed the EU to do more apart from the soft sanctions it had issued, reluctant of provoking Erdogan too much, fearing he could send millions more refugees and migrants to Europe through Greek islands, people who had gone to Turkey fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan.

Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades, right, and European Council President Donald Tusk talk to the media during a press conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool Photo via AP)

“There is a need, dear Donald, for a more concrete response to Turkey’s continued illegal operations. Turkey needs to cease these provocations and stand aside from further escalation that might cause destabilization in an already turbulent region,” he said, the Cyprus Mail reported of their meeting.

Anastasiades said the EU has other ways to exert more pressure but didn’t outline them as some countries, including Greece, want stronger sanctions, which Erdogan said would lead him to “open the gates,” using refugees and migrants as weapons to overwhelm Europe.

“These unlawful activities by Turkey are taking place at an extremely critical juncture for the Cyprus issue, at a time when plans are underway for a tripartite meeting between myself, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and the UN Secretary-General, aiming at the resumption of the dialogue. Turkey’s actions clearly undermine our sincere efforts to engage in meaningful negotiations,” he added.

That was in reference to hopes of restarting reunification talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side and wanted the right to militarily interven again.

On July 15 EU Foreign Ministers endorsed measures, suspending, among others, negotiations with Turkey on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and postponing the Association Council and other EU-Turkey meetings, also reducing pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and asking the European Investment Bank to review all its lending activities in the country.

European Council President Donald Tusk arrives at the presidential palace for a meeting with Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Tusk is in Cyprus for one-day visit. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades, right, talks with European Council President Donald Tusk during their meeting at the presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Tusk is in Cyprus for one-day visit. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool Photo via AP)
Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades, right, talks with European Council President Donald Tusk as he arrives for a meeting at the presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Tusk is in Cyprus for one-day visit. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades, right, talks with European Council President Donald Tusk as he arrives for a meeting at the presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Tusk is in Cyprus for one-day visit. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)