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Cyprus

Nicosia can’t confirm or deny Turkish drilling, Erdogan swipes at Macron

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou

Nicosia has information that Turkey has moved materials and equipment related to drilling activity to the area west of Paphos where it has stationed its drillship Fatih but the government can’t confirm the information, CNA reported on Sunday.

Following reports in Phileleftheros on Sunday that materials and equipment had been moved that would suggest drilling activity, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromos, told the news agency said:  “We have been following statements of Turkish officials for several days and often with conflicting information. There is information on the transport of drilling equipment and equipment. However, we are not in a position to confirm this information.”

He said in any case, Turkey was isolated and could face measures over its activities in Cyprus’ economic zone (EEZ) at the upcoming European Council meeting on June 20 and 21.

“What we know is that just two days ago in Valletta, seven Mediterranean EU Member States condemned the Turkish illegal activity completely in the Cypriot EEZ,” he said.

Prodromou was referring to the summit of the seven EU Mediterranean states heads of government who met in Malta on Friday.  After the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Ankara to stop “illegal activities” in Cyprus’ EEZ and said the EU would not back down on the issue.

The bloc has pressured Turkey to drop its plans for offshore drilling for natural gas in an area some 40 nautical miles west of Paphos that Cyprus sees as part of its EEZ.

“I want to reiterate my solidarity with Cyprus and my support and respect for its sovereignty. Turkey must stop its illegal activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone,” Macron said after the summit. “The European Union will not show weakness on this matter,” he said.

Prodromou added: “President Nicos Anastasiades has secured absolute support from our Mediterranean partners so Turkey is isolated.”

Speaking Friday to Turkey’s Anadolou news agency, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated that Turkey had begun drilling and that a second drillship was headed to the area.

A day earlier, sources in Nicosia, referring to the possibility of launching the Turkish drilling had said there were both indications they were drilling and indications they were not. “But there is no final information”.

Earlier on Sunday, the US expressed concern over Cavusoglu’s statement.

A State Department spokesperson asked by hellasjournal.com said: “As the spokesperson said in a May 6 statement, the United States is deeply concerned by Turkey’s announced intentions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its Exclusive Economic Zone”.
This step, the spokesperson added, “is highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region.”

Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took swipe at Macron on Sunday, saying the French president had no right to talk about the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking to a Turkish journalist on a flight to Tajikistan, Erdogan said. “Where and when does France have the right to speak about in the eastern Mediterranean?”.

“Does it have a coastline in the eastern Mediterranean? In Cyprus, we are a guarantor power. Greece and Britain are guarantors. If these countries say something I understand. What is France doing here? If you tell me [French oil company] Total has made deals then let Total speak. And to what extent it can continue to speak on this subject is another matter. You as France you do not have a right to say that,” he added.

Erdogan said based on international law, the people living in the whole of Cyprus share the waters and that Turkish Cypriots were a party to those rights. “We are watching these rights,” he added.

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