Turkey says EU funding cuts won’t affect drilling off Cyprus

Ankara accuses bloc’s FMs of being ‘prejudiced and biased’ for sanctions in protest of Turkish operations in occupied waters

The drilling vessel Fatih deployed by Turkey to search for gas and oil in waters considered part of the EU state's exclusive economic zone on June 24, 2019 (AFP)
The drilling vessel Fatih deployed by Turkey to search for gas and oil in waters considered part of the EU state's exclusive economic zone on June 24, 2019 (AFP)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Tuesday said EU measures to punish Ankara for drilling operations off Cyprus will “in no way” affect Turkish activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed on measures including cutting 145.8 million euros ($164 million) in pre-accession financial funds to Turkey allocated for 2020.

The move came after Ankara repeatedly ignored warnings by the European Union and the United States to cease its drilling activities off Cyprus.

“The conclusions adopted by (the bloc’s foreign ministers)… will in no way affect Turkey’s determination to continue its hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Journalists walk next to the drilling ship ‘Yavuz’ scheduled to search for oil and gas off Cyprus, at the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul, on June 20, 2019. (Bulent Kilic/AFP)

The ministry accused the EU of being “prejudiced and biased” over the lack of reference to Turkish Cypriots, “who have equal rights over the natural resources of the island.”

Cyprus has been divided between the Republic of Cyprus — an EU member state — and a northern third under Turkish military control since 1974 after Turkey occupied the area in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has fueled a race to tap the underwater resources, and ignited a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus.

Turkey has already sent two ships to drill for oil and gas off Cyprus. Turkish officials have previously said the areas where the ships are either part of Turkey’s continental shelf or part of the territory of the island’s northern third.

Other EU measures taken against Ankara included halting high-level dialogue with Turkey and suspending talks over an aviation agreement.

The bloc’s foreign ministers also told the European Commission to keep working on possible financial sanctions targeting those involved in the drilling operations.

The Turkish ministry said the EU was engaging in “unconstructive behavior” instead of “encouraging the two sides to come together with regard to the hydrocarbon resources.”

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