The Turkish government has responded dismissively to the EU’s threat to impose sanctions on Turkey over drilling in the Mediterranean.
The Council of the EU voted yesterday, 15 July, to suspend diplomatic activities between the EU and Turkey in response to ‘continued and new’ drilling activity off the coast of Cyprus. At least two Turkish ships have been drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot territorial waters; the Turkish government claims exploration rights over the region. In solidarity with Cyprus, which is an EU Member State, the Council has adopted conclusions agreeing to the suspension of negotiations and high level dialogues; as well as recommending the European Investment Bank reconsider its lending protocols with regard to Turkey.
The conclusions adopted by the Council state: “[T]he Council deplores that, despite the European Union’s repeated calls to cease its illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey continued its drilling operations west of Cyprus and launched a second drilling operation northeast of Cyprus within Cypriot territorial waters. The Council reiterates the serious immediate negative impact that such illegal actions have across the range of EU-Turkey relations. The Council calls again on Turkey to refrain from such actions, act in a spirit of good neighbourliness and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus in accordance with international law.”
In response, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement dismissing the Council’s conclusions and accusing it of showing unwarranted bias in favour of Cyprus. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told Turkish news site Habertürk: “We shouldn’t take the EU decision[s] seriously. The EU needs us and they should also know that the implementation of the measures is not possible. It is evident how reliable they are: in the period that follows, we are going to increase our activities. We already have three ships there [and] we are sending a fourth one.”