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International News

Jun 18, 2019

Cyprus expects 'stronger' EU stand on Turkey's drilling

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Cyprus says, the European Union should adopt a firmer stance over Turkey's bid to drill for oil and gas inside the island's exclusive economic zone. President Nicos Anastasiades said he was not optimistic about Turkey changing its tact, but he expects Brussels to show decisiveness when dealing with the issue. Cyprus has issued arrest warrants for crew members of Turkey's drilling ship, Fatih.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Ankara would not back down from its gas exploration. After a summit of southern EU countries in Valletta, the seven nations on Friday expressed "serious concern" over drilling activities within Cyprus's EEZ. They urged the EU to consider appropriate measures in case Turkey does not cease its "illegal activities". 

The Turkish foreign ministry on Saturday said the declaration was "biased" and contrary to international law. It accused the EU of siding with bloc members Cyprus and Greece. The discovery of huge gas reserves in the Mediterranean has fuelled the race to tap underwater resources. Meanwhile, Turkey accused the United States of not acting as an ally in its official response to Washington's ultimatum to abandon a Russian missile defence system deal.

The Turkish defence ministry said in a statement "the wording and approach" of a letter sent early this month by Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan "was not in the spirit of an alliance (and) caused unease". Shanahan's letter warned Ankara has until July 31 to renounce the S-400 purchase or Turkish pilots would be booted from US training on America's latest-generation F-35 fighter jets.

Ankara's push to buy the missile defence system from Moscow has caused significant tension between the NATO allies. NATO ties are already strained by multiple issues including US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed as terrorists by Turkey. Despite US concerns over the S-400 system's interoperability with NATO equipment, Turkey has repeatedly said it would not back away from the deal.

Erdogan at the weekend said Ankara expected the first deliveries of the Russian system in the first half of July. Washington has also warned Turkey faces economic sanctions if it goes through with the deal.

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