Oruc Reis: Germany, France accuse Turkey of ‘provoking’ the EU
The foreign ministers of Germany and France on Thursday accused Turkey of provoking the European Union by continuing natural gas exploration in waters contested by member states Greece and Cyprus.
Earlier this week, Turkey redeployed the ship, Oruc Reis, and said it would start a 10-day surveying operation south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
The EU has so far failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus.
France and Germany said earlier this week Turkey had only “weeks” to revise its stance and stop what they also said were provocations but declined to give a strong ultimatum as Athens and Nicosia would like.
On October 2 an EU summit threatened to impose sanctions if Turkey didn’t stop gas exploration.
“I sincerely hope that we will be able to strongly and unanimously support Greece and Cyprus against the newest provocations made by Turkey,” Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa told reporters as he arrived at the summit.
EU leaders had agreed to give Turkey until early December before considering economic sanctions and Germany, which has so far led diplomatic talks with Ankara, wants to give dialogue a chance because of close EU-Turkey trade ties.
“There will be an effort to give a strong warning [to Turkey],” a senior EU diplomat said.
On the other side, Cyprus is frustrated that, in addition to the Turkish exploration ship off a Greek island, Turkey has sent another vessel to Cyprus’s economic zone to conduct seismic surveys.
EU member Cyprus is also furious that Turkish Cypriot authorities have partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a former resort area fenced off and abandoned in no man’s land since a 1974 Turkish invasion that split the island.
How did Turkey respond?
On its part, Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement this week the activity range was “fully within Turkish continental shelf”.
“It is unacceptable for there to be opposition against our country, which has the longest coastline to the eastern Mediterranean, operating 15km from its mainland,” it said, adding Greece’s criticisms were “baseless accusations with no standing in international law”.
“Our expectation from Greece is for it to withdraw its maximalist claims that are contrary to international law … put an end to its exercises and military activities that increase tensions in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and to enter into a sincere dialogue with us.”