EU sanctions won’t deter from drilling activity, says Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – The European Union’s approval of an initial set of sanctions against Turkey won’t deter the country from pressing ahead with efforts to drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They said were suspending talks on an air transport agreement and would call on the European Investment Bank to “review” its lending to the country.

They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targetted measures” were being worked on to penalise Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Foreign Ministry said the EU made no mention of Turkish Cypriots and acted as though they “do not exist” and accused the 28-nation bloc of “prejudice and bias”.

“The decisions taken by the EU Foreign Affairs Council during a meeting yesterday will in no way affect our country’s determination in continuing hydrocarbon activities in the East Mediterranean,” the ministry said. It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.

Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 42 miles off the island’s west coast.

File photo shows a Turkish police officer patrolling the dock, backdropped by the drilling ship ‘Yavuz’ that was dispatched to the Mediterranean, at the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul. – AP