EU chief warns Ankara against ‘intimidation’ of neighbours’ in East Med

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen on Wednesday warned Ankara against continued provocations against Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the sides are locked in a dispute over hydrocarbon resources.

“Yes, Turkey is in a troubled neighborhood. And yes, it is hosting millions of refugees, for which we support them with considerable funding. But none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbors,” Reuters quoted Von der Leyen as telling European Parliament in her annual ‘State of the Union’ speech.

Turkey is locked in disputes with both Greece and Cyprus over territorial waters in the eastern Mediterranean, where both sides have long disagreed on overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the region. Both sides hold conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in waters.

The latest bout of tensions began last month, when Turkey dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruç Reis to an area of sea claimed by both sides, in a move that has enraged Greece.

Greece and Cyprus can count on Europe’s “full solidarity on protecting their legitimate sovereignty rights,” Von der Leyen said.

The EU chief’s speech arrives days before a European Council summit on Turkey and the EU’s response to recent developments in the waters, where a military build-up is threatening a full conflict.