Turkey says it does not take EU sanctions over east Med gas drilling seriously

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Tuesday dismissed European Union sanctions on Turkey over its drilling for gas in disputed eastern Mediterranean waters and pledged to send another ship to the area.

The European Union Foreign Affairs Council slapped sanctions on Turkey on Monday for what it called illegal drilling around the island of Cyprus. Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and claims some parts of it lie on its own continental shelf. 

The sanctions include a freeze to 146 million euros of pre-accession assistance for Turkey, the suspension of negotiations for an aviation agreement, cutting high level talks on the economy, energy, transport and agriculture, and a review of lending to Turkey from the European Investment Bank, worth 386 million euros last year. 

“We shouldn’t take the EU decision seriously. The EU needs us and they should also know that the implementation of the measures is not possible,” the pro-government Habertürk news website quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying. 

“It is evident how reliable they are,” Çavuşoğlu said. “In the period that follows, we are going to increase our activities. We already have three ships there, we are sending a fourth one.”

Turkey is known to have two gas exploration ships off Cyprus, plus military escorts. It was not clear which ships Çavuşoğlu was referring to.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in 1974 in response to a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup aiming to unite Cyprus with Greece.

As the only country to recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Turkey says Turkish Cypriots have a right to a share of the island’s resources. The Greek Cypriot government says they will receive a fair share once the island is reunified.

Greece’s new foreign minister, Nikos Dendias, welcomed the measures against Turkey.

“I was positively impressed by the unanimous decision by all my colleagues on the issue of Turkey’s provocations regarding Cyprus’ sovereign rights,” Greek newspaper Kathemirini quoted Dendias as saying.