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Turkey Snubs EU Parliament Call for Sanctions Over Cyprus Drilling

Αssociated Press

An offshore drilling rig is seen in the waters off Cyprus coastal city of Limassol, Sunday, July 5, 2020 as a boat passes with a skier. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

ANKARA -- Already ignoring soft European Union sanctions for drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot sovereign waters, Turkey dismissed out of hand a call by the European Parliament for tougher measures, saying it was “disconnected from the realities.”

An EU showdown on Dec. 10-11 will take up the idea of sanctions for Turkey pushing an energy hunt off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying his ships would withdraw before that.

He has alternated sounding conciliatory and offering diplomacy with belligerent talk that Turkey would take what it wants, not recognizing parts of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or some waters around Greek islands.

The EU Parliament easily passed a non-binding resolution which is has no enforcement authority but offered verbal support to Cyprus' legitimate government, a member the bloc Turkey has been trying to join fruitlessly since 2005.

The EU lawmakers urged the bloc's leaders, who have been reluctant to provke Erdogan in fear he will unleash more refugees and migrants through Greece and its islands, to "take action and impose tough sanctions" against Turkey.

Those are being backed as well by France, with Erdogan also in a war of words with French President Emmanuel Macron, the French energy giant Total having a license to drill in Cypriot waters.

Erdogan increased the tension when he went to the northern third of the island that Turkey unlawfully invaded and seized in 1974 and visited the abandoned ghost resort of Varosha, where he opened a beachfront in defiance of United Nations resolutions that have proved useless.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy denounced the resolution and accused the European Parliament of being "prejudiced” and siding with Cyprus, which Turkey won't recognize and bars its ships and planes.

"If this approach and mentality are maintained, it would not be possible for EU bodies to make a constructive contribution to the settlement of the Cyprus issue," Aksoy said, reported the news agency Reuters.

That was in reference to reunification talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and the Turkish-Cypriot side's then leader Mustafa Akinci saying they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army and wanted the right of further military intervention.

Akinci, who had broken with Erdogan's push for a two-state solution and permanent partition, was narrowly defeated in a re-election bid in October to hardline nationalist Ersin Tatar, who supports the Turkish President, the beach front opening seen a deciding factor in his being elected.

Only Turkey recognizes the self-declared republic on the occupied side although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, breaking his vow not to talk while drilling was going on by Turkey, saying he'd be willing to try again.

France has not as of yet drawn up sanctions against Turkey, but diplomats say any measures would probably target areas of Turkey's economy linked to natural gas exploration in seas off the coast of Cyprus, the news agency added.

The EU has already condemned Turkey for re-opening Varosha, a beach resort abandoned by Greek Cypriots fleeing Turkey’s invasion in 1974, saying that “the creation of a new fait accompli undermines mutual trust and the prospects for a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem, by negatively modifying the situation on the ground, exacerbating division and embedding the permanent partition of Cyprus.”