Cyprus urges EU to buffer Turkish expansionism

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Cyprus is working with EU partners France and Greece to thwart Turkey’s ‘expansionism’ in the eastern Mediterranean where tension has escalated over energy rights, said President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday.

Anastasiades said it was time for Brussels to make a stand against a “brazen” Turkey which has entered Cypriot waters on multiple occasion to drill for gas.

He said Turkey was trying to impose its own control in the region.

“Europe has to consider what its tolerance may encourage,” said Anastasiades.

“Unfortunately, we are referring to a country which is acting like a bully, trying to bring the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean and other Mediterranean countries under its control,” he added.

Anastasiades said Turkey’s behaviour was “inconceivable and unacceptable” in the way it tried to dominate neighbouring countries.

“So far you have witnessed the multiple efforts being made in coordination with Greece, France, but also with other partners, to prevent Turkey’s unchecked pursuit to impose its own international law, that is, expansionist policy.”

The Cypriot president made the comments a day after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell held talks in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a bid to ease regional tensions.

Turkey’s top diplomat said Ankara expects the bloc to act as an “honest broker” on energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean instead of expressing its support for Cyprus’ rights.

He said Turkey will respond with its own steps if Brussels imposes further sanctions on Ankara.

France’s foreign minister said last week EU ministers would discuss Turkey on July 13 and said new sanctions on Ankara could be considered in addition to steps taken over Turkey’s drilling in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

“If the EU takes additional decisions against Turkey, we will have to respond to this,” Cavusoglu told a news conference.

As relations deteriorated between the bloc and Ankara, the European Union imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on two people in February for their role in Turkey’s drilling in Cyprus waters.

Cavusoglu berated the EU for failing to fulfil promises and linking issues such as the Cyprus dispute and a 2016 migrant deal.

He also repeated a call for France to apologize after an incident between Turkish and French warships in the Mediterranean, which prompted Paris to request a NATO investigation.

Relations between the NATO members have soured over the Libya conflict, where Turkey supports the internationally recognised government and accuses Paris of backing the eastern-based forces of Khalifa Haftar who tried to capture Tripoli.

France denies backing Haftar’s offensive on the capital and accused Turkish warships of aggressive behaviour.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and has dispatched warship-escorted ships to drill for gas in Cypriot maritime zones.

Turkey claims almost half of Cyprus’ economic zone and insists it is acting to protect its interests of Turkish Cypriots.