The European Union on Sunday urged Turkey to “immediately” stop exploring for gas in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean as tensions rise with other countries in the region, AFP reported.
The call came after Ankara said it planned to extend its search by drilling off the southwestern coast of Cyprus from next week.
Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean have put it at loggerheads with its uneasy NATO ally Greece and the rest of the EU, with France announcing last week it would bolster its presence in the region in support of Athens.
Brussels has repeatedly called on Ankara to halt energy exploration off Cyprus, arguing that the drilling is illegal because it infringes on the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Turkey’s latest announcement “regrettably fuels further tensions and insecurity in the Eastern Mediterranean,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“This action runs counter and undermines efforts to resume dialogue and negotiations, and to pursue immediate de-escalation, which is the only path towards stability and lasting solutions, as reiterated by EU foreign ministers last Friday,” he said. “I call on the Turkish authorities to end these activities immediately and to engage fully and in good faith in a broad dialogue with the European Union.”
Last week Ankara sent the seismic research vessel Oruç Reis, escorted by warships, to an area claimed by Greece, triggering the ire of Athens and the EU. On Friday EU foreign ministers voiced solidarity with Greece and called for a de-escalation of the crisis.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday that Ankara was ready for dialogue but insisted, “We will not back down in the face of sanctions and threats.”
The defense ministry, meanwhile, published photographs of naval maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean showing warships escorting another seismic research vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa.