Turkey rebuffed a set of punitive measures by the European Union and vowed to go ahead with its energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean in a growing dispute with EU member Cyprus.
Turkey and Cyprus are at loggerheads over offshore gas reserves claimed by the Greek Cypriot administration of the island and disputed by Ankara, which doesn’t recognize its sovereignty. The island has remained divided since the Turkish military’s 1974 seizure of northern Cyprus, where it maintains tens of thousands of troops.
The prospect of further tensions around one of the world’s toughest diplomatic disputes is putting pressure on Turkey’s weakened economy just as its longtime alliance with the U.S. is also coming under dangerous strain.
Turkey is irked by Washington’s refusal to extradite a U.S.-based cleric blamed for orchestrating the coup attempt in 2016. Another flashpoint is America’s arming of Kurdish militants in Syria, a group Turkey considers a threat to its security.
The EU’s foreign policy chiefs in Brussels called for suspending negotiations on an aviation agreement with Ankara, halting scheduled ministerial meetings, reducing financial aid and calling on the European Investment Bank to review sovereign-backed lending to Turkey. Turkey said the lack of recognition of the rights of Turkish Cypriots showed how the EU is acting over Cyprus with “prejudice and bias.”
Turkey said its energy research in the region is aimed at protecting its continental shelf and the “equal rights” of Turkish Cypriots over hydrocarbon resources. It also accused Greece and Cyprus of exploiting their membership in the bloc to serve their interests and criticizing EU countries of pursuing “their maximalist policies.”
Turkey, which recently dispatched a second drilling ship off Cyprus, said a July 13 proposal by the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state for cooperation and an equal sharing of the energy resources should be seen as an “important opportunity” for a solution.