EU to discuss Turkish incursion into Cypriot exclusion zone

Nikos Anastasiades to veto talks on Turkish EU accession after maritime incident

Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “The Barbaros ship will continue to do its seismic studies . .  nobody should try to create a crisis.” Photograph: Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg

Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “The Barbaros ship will continue to do its seismic studies . . nobody should try to create a crisis.” Photograph: Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg

 

Cyprus’s president Nikos Anastasiades is to raise Turkey’s incursion into the island’s maritime exclusion zone at today’s European Council summit in Brussels.

Mr Anastasiades also intends to veto the opening of new chapters in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. Recourse to the UN Security Council is another measure under consideration by Cypriot political leaders to protest over the entry by four Turkish vessels into the island’s exclusive economic zone, where multinational companies have been prospecting for oil and gas over the past few years. Mr Anastasiades has urged UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

Turkey, which occupied 36 per cent of the island in 1974, and the Turkish Cypriot administration recognised only by Ankara, oppose exploration by the Republic of Cyprus, arguing resources must be shared fairly by Greek and Turkish Cypriots once the island is reunified.

The Turkish survey vessel Barbaros, accompanied by a warship and two support vessels, sailed into the zone following an early October declaration of intent to conduct seismic surveys from October 20th through to December 30th. The Cyprus government responded to the provocation by suspending reunification talks.

Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “The Barbaros ship will continue to do its seismic studies . . . nobody should try to create a crisis.”

So far it was “business is as usual”, said Cyprus’s energy minister Giorgios Lakkotrypis. “We are monitoring the drilling.”

Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Nicolaides said it was “not a coincidence” that Russia’s Black Sea fleet began four days of exercises northeast of the island as the Turkish ships entered the zone. Russia has long-standing close relations with the Republic and the fleet has been present in the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast since 2013.

Greece has expressed full support for Cyprus in its efforts to end Turkey’s “illegal and provocative” actions.

US deputy state department spokeswoman Marie Harf reiterated Washington’s recognition of Cyprus’s right to develop the resources of the exclusive economic zone, while the British foreign office took a similar stance, expressing regret over Turkey’s activities, which had “raised tensions”, and called on all parties to “avoid inflammatory actions or statements”.

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule said it was “time to de-escalate and keep doors open for swift return to negotiations” for a Cyprus settlement.