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Politics

EU Says Turkish Renewed Cyprus Drilling Plan Spiking Tension

September 17, 2020

Turkey’s decision to reserve more Cypriot waters in a hunt for oil and gas isn't sitting well with the European Union, which so far has issued only soft sanctions exempting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The extension of a navigational telex (NAVTEX) warning other ships out of the area “will fuel further tensions and insecurity in the Eastern Mediterranean,” European Commission Spokesman for External affairs, Peter Stan said.

He said that this decision comes at a moment when “there is an opportunity to pursue immediate de-escalation, and resume dialogue and negotiations, which is the only path towards lasting solutions,” reported Kathimerini.

The EU was glad, however that Turkey for now pulled back its research vessel Oruc Reis and warships from near the Greek island of Kastellorizo where drilling was planned, Turkey saying it's for maintenance and would return.

Despite that warning, Stan said the pullback was “an important step paving the way for a meaningful dialogue between Greece and Turkey,” and said it should happen with Turkey, repeating frequent EU boilerplate diplomatic statements

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he too was anxious about Turkey moving to extend the operation of its Yavuz energy drill ship in East Mediterranean waters that part of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)

"Turkey has a choice – engage with Europe in a constructive way or continue its unilateral actions and face consequences," he said in an interview with The Economist as he called for the EU to impose meaningful sanctions of Turkey doesn't pull back from Greek and Cypriot waters.

The EU had issued only mild penalties against officials of Turkey's state-run petroleum company, exempting Erdogan and top political officials from any action, which Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said meant nothing.

Anastasiades said the EU should weigh using "all means at our disposal" while responding to Turkey to avoid setting "a double standard" in how the 27-member bloc chooses to deal with improper activity inside and outside its borders.

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