Macron warns Turkey France will show 'no weakness' on Cyprus gas search

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Turkey off further drilling activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in a joint statement with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday, saying France would “show no weakness” on the matter.

The statement repeats France’s warning to Turkey over what the European Union views as illegal drilling activities around the eastern Mediterranean island. The EU placed limited sanctions on Turkey in July, after Turkish vessels began energy exploration in disputed waters.

“We will not tolerate Turkey’s infringements around Cyprus”, Turkish left-wing daily BirGün quoted Macron as saying. “The European Union and France will not show any weakness in this respect”, Greek daily Ekathimerini quoted him as saying.

France’s Macron has repeatedly voiced opposition to Turkey’s eastern Mediterranean drilling activities, and declared France’s solidarity in the dispute with the Republic of Cyprus in June.

Yet Ankara has vowed to continue the search for gas around the island, saying sections of Cyprus’s EEZ fall on Turkey’s continental shelf and opposing the Greek Cypriot administration’s efforts to exploit the resources around the island since it says this infringes on Turkish Cypriots’ rights.

Turkey is the only country to formally recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and has maintained a large military presence on the island since launching an invasion in 1974 to oppose a Greek nationalist backed coup.

Two Turkish drill ships and a seismic survey vessel are currently conducting exploration activities around the island accompanied by Turkish navy vessels, with a second seismic ship expected to join them.

Mitsotakis told Greek journalists that “Europe will not leave Cyprus unprotected”, Ekathimerini reported.

But the sanctions implemented in July, including a freeze on Turkey’s pre-accession funding to the tune of 146 million euros and the suspension of negotiations on an aviation agreement, have failed to deter Ankara.

EU officials at the time said the measures would be limited since the EU relies on its partnership with Turkey on important matters including security and migration.

Erdoğan shrugged off the sanctions in comments after Macron spoke on Thursday, saying they had backfired on the EU.

“Our naval and air forces are on duty for our vessels to carry out their (drilling) activities securely,” Erdoğan said. “Those who want to test our country's determination in this regard should have learned their lessons.”