Turkey’s east Med drilling tests EU’s credibility, says Greek defence minister

Turkey’s gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus is testing the European Union’s credibility as a guardian of its members’ energy interests in the region, the Greek defence minister said. 

Nikos Panagiotopoulos’ statement on Friday arrives amid soaring tensions between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece over the potentially rich hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Ankara says the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the north of the island, which only it recognises, has a right to a share in the reserves, while the Cypriot government says any proceeds from gas drilling will be shared fairly after a peace deal is established. Turkey currently has two vessels in the region. The Fatih is the first Turkish surveying vessel to begin drilling in the seas around the island. The second, “Yavuz”, began drilling operations in July.

Greece is monitoring Turkey’s activity in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights with “great concern,” the Associated Press quoted Panagiotopoulos as saying. 

The Greek defence minister said Ankara’s “expanding provocative and unlawful behaviour” in the island nation’s territory leaves “no room for complacency.”

The European Union considers Turkey’s activities in the region illegal and this week imposed sanctions on Turkey for what it called illegal drilling.

Ankara has dismissed the move by the bloc, stating the EU decision “shouldn’t be taken seriously.’’