Macron declares solidarity with Cyprus on gas dispute with Turkey

Updated with Turkish Foreign Ministry's statement in 9th and 10th paragraphs

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday called on Turkey to halt what he called Turkey’s illegal activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in relation to ongoing tensions in eastern Mediterranean over hydrocarbon resources, Reuters reported.

The tensions in eastern Mediterranean escalated this week after Cyprus issued arrest warrants for 25 people including crew assisting the Turkish drilling vessel Fatih and officials at firms partnered with the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation, after Turkey announced early this month that a second Turkish drillship would begin drilling off Cyprus by July.

Turkey also called last week a $9 billion gas deal Cyprus signed with the U.S.-based Noble Energy, the Dalek Group of Israel and Royal Dutch Shell “a concrete example of the Greek Cypriots' violation of the rights of the Turkish Cypriots”. 

“I want to reiterate my solidarity with Cyprus and my support and respect for its sovereignty. Turkey must stop its illegal activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone,” Reuters quoted Macron as saying after a summit of Southern European Union heads of states on Friday in Malta.

“The European Union will not show weakness on this matter,” the French President said. 

Turkey, the only country that formally recognise the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, disputes the boundaries of the Cyprus’s EEZ and says exploitation of the island’s resources by the Cypriot administration infringes on the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

“It’s important to signal that the EU should take specific measures if Turkey does not stop its infringing behaviour. Whoever doesn’t respect international law must suffer the consequences,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said after the summit in Malta. 

The leaders of Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain joined Greece and France in criticising Turkey for its failure to respond to calls from the European Union concerning its continued operations in the eastern Mediterranean and its actions.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday said the EU summit's declaration violated the international law and reflected the national positions of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration.

"For us, it lacks any value, force, or effect," the ministry said in written statement

France and Greek Cyprus in May signed a deal that will allow French warships to use a naval dock on the island of Cyprus, while a French-Italian consortium including energy companies Eni and Total began to expand its presence in the Cyprus’ EEZ.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday denied reports published in the Greek press last month that French forces would deploy permanently in Cyprus during a bilateral