Greece says EU must stop talking and act against Turkey’s Mediterranean policy
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the European Union's reaction to Turkey's activities in the Mediterranean required real action and not just statements, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini said.
“We cannot make decisions and then look weak when implementing them,” Mitsotakis said during a teleconference with leaders of the European People’s Party (EPP) on Wednesday.
Mitsotakis said that Greece would not accept challenges to its sovereignty and that a strong message needs to be sent to Turkey which, as an EU accession candidate country, cannot threaten EU member states.
Tensions have been rising between Greece and Turkey in recent weeks due to a dispute over gas exploration rights off the coast of Cyprus, and Turkish violations of Greek airspace.
In the EEP meeting on Wednesday, Mitsotakis briefed leaders about an incident last week in which a Tanzanian-flagged Turkish ship, suspected of carrying arms to Libya in contravention of a United Nations embargo, was spotted off the coast of the North African country.
Meanwhile, Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides has said that EU countries should boost their naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean to prevent Turkey’s attempts to drill for hydrocarbons off Cyprus’s coast, the National Herald said on Wednesday.
Angelides, who was speaking at a teleconference between EU defence ministers, said that softer measures taken so far had not deterred Turkey from moving forward with its drilling plans in the region.
France has sent ships to the area to protect its French energy company Total, which has a license to drill in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but Italy has not sent ships to the area to protect the Italy company ENI there, the National Herald said.
Turkey has made clear its intentions to drill in areas to the west of the divided island of Cyprus, in spite of protests from the Greek Cypriot side and its allies that some of the areas explored by Turkish vessels lie in the Cypriot state’s claimed EEZ.
The island has been split since 1974 between a Greek-Cypriot administration in the south, recognised internationally, and a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot government in the north recognised only by Turkey.
Ankara says Northern Cyprus has a right to a share in the hydrocarbon reserves and that it is drilling in areas within its continental shelf. Ankara has sent two drilling vessels - Fatih and most recently Yavuz - to the eastern Mediterranean since last spring.
Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said last month that Turkey may begin oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean within three or four months as part of a maritime border deal signed with Libya – which Greece and Cyprus say is illegal – intended to allow Ankara to explore for natural gas and oil and exploit hundreds of kilometres of Mediterranean seabed from its southeastern coast to northern Libya.