Cyprus expects 'stronger' EU stand on Turkey's drilling

Nicosia (AFP) –


Cyprus said Tuesday it expects the European Union to adopt a firmer stance over Turkey?s bid to drill for oil and gas inside the island's exclusive economic zone.

President Nicos Anastasiades said he was not optimistic about Turkey changing its tact, but he does expect Brussels to bare its teeth when dealing with the issue.

"I?m optimistic that the EU will at least show decisiveness in sending a stronger message than it has done up until today. This is our objective," he told reporters.

"And I believe after the summit of the seven southern EU member states that there will be a stronger EU stance," he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Ankara would not back down from its gas exploration.

"We continue and will continue to search in those areas that are ours," Erdogan said during a televised speech in Istanbul.

Cyprus has issued arrest warrants for crew members of Turkey's drilling ship, Fatih.

After a summit of southern EU countries in Valletta, the seven nations on Friday expressed "serious concern over actual or potential drilling activities within Cyprus's exclusive economic zone".

They urged the EU to keep an eye on the issue "and, in case Turkey does not cease its illegal activities, to consider appropriate measures in full solidarity with Cyprus".

The Turkish foreign ministry on Saturday said the declaration was "biased" and contrary to international law, accusing the EU of siding with bloc members Cyprus and Greece.

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the Mediterranean has fuelled the race to tap underwater resources.

The island is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway state set up after a 1974 Turkish invasion following a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Turkey considers the area in the Mediterranean to be part of its continental shelf and granted exploration licences to Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012.

Last month, Brussels and the United States urged Turkey to reconsider plans to start exploratory drilling off the island.

Energy giants Total of France and Italy's ENI are heavily involved in exploring for oil and gas off Cyprus as well as ExxonMobil of the US.