Unable to do anything but put out press releases, European Union leaders meeting in Romania said they support Cyprus’ right to license companies to look for oil and gas off the island, saying that Turkey – which occupies the northern third – does not.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker said he backed the legitimate Cypriot government as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is forging ahead with plans to have ships drill in parts of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) his country won’t recognize.
Asked by a journalist at the informal European Council of the heads of state of the 28 countries what is position on Turkey’s activities in the region, he responded: “I am a Cypriot,” said the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were expected to brief EU leaders over the issue that is raising tensions again, with Greek, Turkey and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still has a military base there, guarantors of security.
Speaking at an event to mark Europe Day in Nicosia earlier on Thursday, Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said there would soon be more developments but wouldn’t eleaborate what he meant.
Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said Anastasiades raised the issue during a meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) ahead of the summit, informing leaders about “Turkey’s blatant and unprecedented violations” of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Prodromou said Anastasiades’ EPP counterparts “condemn the Turkish intervention (and) call on Turkey to abandon these illegal activities,” but can’t do anything about it as the EU, while occasionally going after Turkey, needs to keep a balance over a refugee and migrant swap deal to keep the country from flooding Greece with more.
Tsipras said he would bring up the matter, which was “a European issue and not just a Cypriot one,” adding that “international law cannot be violated,” but Turkey said it is acting in accordance with those laws – which it doesn’t recognize.