Cypriot gas dispute colors Turkey-EU summit

A meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leaders of the European Union ended with repeated EU condemnation of Turkey’s recent interference with oil and gas exploration off Cyprus.

A meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leaders of the European Union ended with repeated EU condemnation of Turkey’s recent interference with oil and gas exploration off Cyprus.

“The European Union stands united behind the Republic of Cyprus,” declared Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, in Varna.

Just days before the summit, the EU had said it “strongly condemns Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece.”

Omer Celik, EU affairs minister, called that statement “not acceptable for Turkey.”

Turkish military vessels in February prevented Eni from moving a drilling rig to Block 3 off Cyprus from Block 6, where it had drilled a gas discovery designated Calypso (OGJ Online, Feb. 9, 2018).

Turkey’s government says the exclusive economic zone claimed by Cyprus overlaps Turkish territory and argues that gas development sanctioned by the Greek Cypriot government violates rights of Turkish Cypriots in the divided island.

The unresolved dispute over oil and gas exploration off Cyprus simmered in the background as Erdogan, Tusk, and other EU officials debated broader controversies over migration, combatting terrorism, the rule of law in Turkey, and Turkey’s involvement in Syrian conflicts.

After the meeting, Erdogan said EU membership remains “a strategic goal” of Turkey, which has been in negotiations over EU accession since October 2005.

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