Turkey defiant amidst EU, US criticism on gas drilling off Cyprus

Istanbul/Athens -By Anindita Ramaswamy, - Turkey remained defiant on Monday in the face of criticism from the European Union and the United States over its plans to drill for natural gas off Cyprus.
Cyprus issued international arrest warrants on Monday for crew on a Turkish drilling ship that has been exploring for natural gas since Friday in what Nicosia says is its "exclusive economic zone."

"The legitimate rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus over the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean are not debatable," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Ankara.
He was speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, marking the 25th anniversary of the Mediterranean Dialogue, initiated on the premise that Europe's security is tied to stability in the Mediterranean.
"Our country is determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots," Erdogan said.
Earlier Monday, Cypriot State Secretary Vassilis Palmas told radio station Active the warrants were issued because the crew was conducting research without the approval of the Nicosia government.
Palmas warned "those involved in illegal activities can be arrested," and the Foreign Ministry said it will raise the issue at a European Union summit in Bucharest on May 9.
The issue has reignited old tensions in the south-eastern Mediterranean Sea. The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into a predominantly Greek south, which is an EU member, and a Turkish north, whose sovereignty is recognized only by Ankara.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed "grave concern" over Turkey's intention to drill inside Cyprus' exclusive economic zone. The ship is positioned 60 kilometres west of Cyprus.
She called on Ankara "to show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone," and refrain from illegal actions to which the bloc "will respond appropriately and in full solidarity" with Cyprus.
Turkey said on Friday its activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are legitimate under international law. "Having the longest coastal line in the region, we will protect our own rights and interests within our continental shelf," the Foreign Ministry said.
The US State Department on Sunday said Ankara's move was "highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint."
Turkey called the US statement "unrealistic," with the Foreign Ministry saying Monday that "attempts of third parties to act as an international court in determining maritime boundaries is unacceptable."
The US comment on Greek Cypriot claims over the area "is neither constructive nor compatible with international law, given the fact that there is no valid maritime delimitation agreement in the region," Turkey said.
The ministry added that Turkey's drilling and seismic vessels will continue their activities in the a

Monday, May 6th 2019
By Anindita Ramaswamy,

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