ENERGY: Cyprus expects firmer EU stance on Turkey\\\’s drilling ambitions

3 mins read

Cyprus said on Tuesday it expects a firmer stance from the European Union over Turkey’s bid to drill for oil and gas within its exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said he wasn’t optimistic about Turkey changing its tact, but he does expect Brussels to show its teeth in its handling of the issue.

“I’m optimistic that the EU will at least show decisiveness in sending a stronger message than it has done up until today, this is our objective,” Anastasiades told reporters.

“And I believe after the summit of the seven southern EU Member States there will be a stronger EU stance," he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Turkey would not back down from gas exploration in Cyprus after southern European leaders urged Ankara to stop.

"We continue and will continue to search in those areas that are ours," Erdogan said during a televised speech in Istanbul.

Cyprus has issued arrests warrants for crew members of Turkey's drilling ship, Fatih.

After a summit of the southern European Union countries in Valletta, the seven nations issued a joint declaration on Friday, expressing "serious concern over actual or potential drilling activities within Cyprus' exclusive economic zone".

They urged the EU to keep an eye on the issue "and, in case Turkey does not cease its illegal activities, to consider appropriate measures in full solidarity with Cyprus".

The Turkish foreign ministry on Saturday said the declaration was "biased" and contrary to international law, accusing the European Union of siding with EU members Cyprus and Greece.

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the Mediterranean has fuelled the race to tap underwater resources.

The island is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the northern third under Turkish military control since 1974, formed after Ankara's troops occupied the area in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.

Turkey considers the area in the Mediterranean to be part of its continental shelf and granted exploration licences to Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012.

Last month Brussels and the United States urged Turkey to reconsider plans to start exploratory drilling off the island.

Energy giants Total of France and Italy's ENI are heavily involved in exploring for oil and gas off Cyprus as well as ExxonMobil.