The European Union said on Thursday it would continue to ‘monitor’ Turkey’s actions in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus, for the moment avoiding explicit steps to pressure Ankara over its illegal gas explorations.
“Concerning Turkey’s continued illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the EU will, as set out in the Council conclusions of 18 June 2019, closely monitor developments and stands ready to respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus,” the European Council stated in its draft conclusions.
“The European Council welcomes the invitation to the Commission and the European External Action Service to submit options for appropriate measures without delay.”
Citing sources familiar with the issue, the Cyprus News Agency said the text might be enhanced when discussed by the leaders. The final conclusions are expected on Friday.
There was no immediate reaction from the government.
It remained to be seen what, if any, specific political and economic measures the European Commission would propose against Turkey for the latter’s actions in the Cyprus EEZ.
The General Affairs Council, convening on Tuesday in Luxemburg, had invited the European Council and the European External Action Service to submit “options for appropriate measures” against Turkey “without delay” due to the country’s refusal to conform with international law and EU calls for restraint with regard to its drilling activities.
The proposals are expected to be tabled during Friday’s European Council summit, where developments in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s actions are on the agenda.
Nevertheless Thursday’s draft conclusions were a washout when compared to the robust rhetoric voiced by certain EU leaders not a week ago.
Following the summit of Southern European Union heads of states in Malta last week, French President Emmanuel Macron had urged Ankara to stop “illegal activities” in Cyprus’ EEZ and said the EU would not back down on the issue.
“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 at the time.
“The European Union will not show weakness on this matter,” he had added.
Nicosia is hoping for an unequivocal display of ‘solidarity’ from the EU, even as Turkey despatched a second drillship to waters off the island.
Ahead of the EU summit on Thursday evening, president Nicos Anastasiades met with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.
Anastasiades briefed Tusk on Turkey’s ongoing violations of the island’s EEZ as well as the recent Turkish move in the fenced-off town of Varosha.
“I expect the European Council to confirm its full solidarity with Cyprus and its readiness to respond appropriately,” Tusk stated after the meeting.
Cyprus has also intimated jeopardizing European Union enlargement talks should the bloc fail to take action against Ankara.