Turkey obstructs gas exploration vessel near Cyprus

The European Union has called on Turkey to rein in its aggression after the Republic of Cyprus accused the Turks of obstructing a gas exploration vessel, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Monday.

A number of countries are racing to discover potentially huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu sparked tensions over the exploration last week, when he claimed a deal for an exlcusive economic zone between Cyprus and Egypt was “null and void”, and said that the deal contravened the “inalienable rights” of Turkish Cypriots to benefit from the island’s resources.

Control of the island of Cyprus is split between the internationally recognised, EU-member Republic of Cyprus and the Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey.

Ankara has declared that it will explore the area for gas despite the exclusive agreement between the Greek Cypriots and Egypt. On Sunday, the Republic of Cyprus reported that the Turkish military had obstructed an Italian vessel from conducting gas exploration, according to Kathimerini.

“Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to neighborly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state,” Kathimerini reported a spokeswoman for the executive European Commission as saying.

Athens, too, called on Turkey to “desist from further unlawful actions and comply with its obligations stemming from international law” in a foreign ministry statement.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece have been on the rise too, with politicians on both sides making a number of provocative displays around the control of the Aegean Sea.

In December, Turkish opposition leaders called for action to retake what they said were islands “occupied” by Greece in the sea, while the Greek defence minister was prevented from laying a wreath on a pair of uninhabited, disputed islets by Turkish vessels in January.

A decision by Greek courts on Monday ruling against the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers wanted in connection with the failed July 2016 coup attempt will do little to ease tensions.

Ankara has lodged a second extradition request, though the soldiers will not be detained while their case is in process, Kathimerini reported.