The European Union (EU) has warned Turkey to “immediately” stop its oil and gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean, after Ankara announced it was extending operations in the disputed waters off EU-member Cyprus.
Turkey said on Sunday that its Yavuz energy drill ship would extend operations in the disputed waters off Cyprus until mid-September. The vessel will be accompanied by three other Turkish ships, according to a maritime notice that added “all vessels are strongly advised not to enter” the area.
Turkey had already entered waters disputed with Greece, another EU member.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell issued a stern warning to Ankara on Sunday, calling on “the Turkish authorities to end these activities immediately and to engage fully and in good faith in a broad dialog with the European Union.”
Ankara’s operations, Borrell said, “regrettably fuels further tensions and insecurity in the Eastern Mediterranean” and “runs counter and undermines efforts to resume dialog and negotiations, and to pursue immediate de-escalation.”
Borrell convened an urgent meeting on Friday during which EU foreign ministers expressed concern about Turkey’s recent naval mobilizations that would “lead to greater antagonism and distrust” in the region.
Borrell also said he would prepare “options on further appropriate measures in case tensions do not abate,” according to the European Council.
A standoff has already intensified between Turkey and Greece over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. The two have been at loggerheads over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the waters.
Turkish exploration activities in the sea have angered the EU. France announced last week that it would temporarily reinforce its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean “in cooperation with European partners, including Greece.”
Citing Greek defense sources, Reuters reported that the French military conducted training exercises with Greek forces off the southern island of Crete on Thursday. The exercises were conducted under a two-year Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Greek Cyprus and France that had entered into force early this month.
Turkey slams France’s ‘unlawful attitudes’
The drills prompted a reaction from Ankara, which called on France “not to seek adventure in Cyprus-related matters, and act much more responsibly.”
“It is unacceptable under any circumstances that France organizes joint exercises with the Greek Cypriot administration and deploys its military aircraft to the island contrary to the 1959-60 agreements,” said Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay on Sunday.
He also called on the EU to take action against the “spoiled, aggressive, and unlawful attitudes” of France in the region.
“No attempt contrary of Turkey and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] has a chance of succeeding in the eastern Mediterranean,” Oktay said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said in a statement on Sunday that the French-Greek military pact posed a risk of disturbing efforts toward stability and security in the eastern Mediterranean.
It argued that the Greek Cypriot administration did not represent the Turkish Cypriots or the island as a whole and was not authorized to sign the agreement.
Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1974 over Cyprus, which has since been divided, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot administration recognized only by Turkey and the southern two thirds governed by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.