Turkey is choosing to escalate tensions in Cyprus, Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said on Sunday.
Christodoulides’ remarks come as a standoff between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus over territorial boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean risks escalating into a direct military confrontation. Although Turkey and Greece have taken steps towards reconciliation, both sides are keeping their militaries on alert.
On Aug. 10, Turkey sent its Oruç Reis research vessel, with a navy escort, to a disputed area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, igniting a military build-up that has involved several countries. Although the Oruç Reis returned to the Antalya port last week, the Turkish Navy issued a navigational telex (Navtex) on Friday reserving an area of the eastern Mediterranean for the Barbaros – another Turkish research ship – to conduct seismic surveying activities south of Cyprus from Sept. 20 until Oct. 20.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that the Oruç Reis will return to its activities in the eastern Mediterranean following routine maintenance.
The Navtex renewal for exploration in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) showed that European Union sanctions against Turkey must proceed immediately, Cyprus Mail cited Christodoulides as telling Greek website iefimerida.gr in an interview.
“This shows clear intentions, especially at a time when there is an initiative to end its (Turkey’s) illegal actions in the EEZ of Cyprus,” he said. “It is therefore clear that in the case of Cyprus, it chooses further escalation, in contrast to what happens in the case of Oruç Reis.”
EU leaders will meet at a summit on Sept. 24-25 to evaluate possible sanctions against Turkey. Cyprus and France have been pushing for severe sanctions, while Greece has taken a lighter position, calling on EU member states to draft a possible list as a precautionary measure, depending on how talks with Turkey develop.
Christodoulides said there are two options for the EU.
“The first regards Turkey’s illegal actions on Cyprus, which continue. For this there was a political decision taken in 2019 and there is also the relevant legal framework for targeted measures against those involved in these illegal actions,” he said.