Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz sets sail in Izmit Bay, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, off the port of Dilovasi, Turkey. File photo/Reuters
Turkey on Tuesday said EU measures to punish Ankara for drilling operations off Cyprus will “in no way” affect Turkish activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed measures including cutting 145.8 million euros ($164 million) in pre-accession financial funds to Turkey allocated for 2020.
The move came after Ankara repeatedly ignored warnings by the European Union and the United States to cease its drilling activities off Cyprus.
“The conclusions adopted by (the bloc's foreign ministers)... will in no way affect Turkey's determination to continue its hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry accused the EU of being “prejudiced and biased” over the lack of reference to Turkish Cypriots, “who have equal rights over the natural resources of the island”.
Cyprus has been divided between the Republic of Cyprus — an EU member state — and a northern third under Turkish military control since 1974 after Turkey occupied the area in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.
The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has fuelled a race to tap the underwater resources, and ignited a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus.
Turkey has already sent two ships to drill for oil and gas off Cyprus. Turkish officials have previously said the areas where the ships are either part of Turkey's continental shelf or part of the territory of the island's northern third.
Other EU measures taken against Ankara included halting high-level dialogue with Turkey and suspending talks over an aviation agreement.
The bloc's foreign ministers also told the European Commission to keep working on possible financial sanctions targeting those involved in the drilling operations.
The Turkish ministry said the EU was engaging in “unconstructive behaviour” instead of “encouraging the two sides to come together with regard to the hydrocarbon resources.”
The European Union will put on hold high-level talks with Ankara and negotiations on an air transport agreement, as well as freeze funding for Turkey next year, over “illegal” drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus,
Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it rejected statements by Greek and European Union officials that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate and said the EU could
Turkey is at odds with EU members Greece and Cyprus over hydrocarbon exploration in disputed east Mediterranean waters.
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"Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process," the ministers, from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said.