Stay away from friction with Cyprus, EU warns Turkey

The European Commission has reiterated a warning to Turkey to stop interfering in gas exploration efforts by the Greek Republic of Cyprus, the Greek Reporter news site said on Monday.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry spoke out in opposition to an auction held by the Republic of Cyprus to sell exploration rights for a new area in the gas-rich waters around the island, known as block seven.

Turkey is the only country to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and has supported its government since the island was split into two halves following a Turkish invasion in 1974 provoked by a Greek-backed coup against the Cypriot government.

Turkish officials have complained that gas exploration conducted by partners of the Greek Republic of Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognise, infringe on Turkish Cypriots’ rights, and has sent naval vessels to block exploration ships on several occasions this year.

On Monday, in response to a Cypriot journalist’s question on the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement, European Union’s Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas referred to a European Council ruling from March that “strongly condemned Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.”

“EU leaders called on Turkey to put an end to these actions and to respect Cyprus' sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources, in line with EU and international law. They also recalled Turkey's obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations, and normalize relations with all EU member states including the Republic of Cyprus,” the March statement said.

Schinas went on to warn Turkey to “stay away from friction” with Cyprus as it exploited resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone, said the Greek Reporter.