European Union mulls cutting funds to Turkey as drilling feud escalates

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Since May, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels, Fatih and recently Yavuz, to the Eastern Mediterranean for oil and gas exploration, asserting the right of Turkey and the Northern Cyprus to the resources of the region. It triggered a strong protest from the Republic of Cyprus and rebukes from the European Union and Greece.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.

The ministry said being a member of the European Union and "allegedly representing the entire Island" does not give the Greek Cypriot Administration the right to usurp the legitimate rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots. Such a move would reduce the area that Turkey could claim as its EEZ from about 90,000 square kms to 26,000 square kms.

Cyprus has divided its EEZ off its southern coast into 13 blocks, or areas.

Turkey and Cyprus are at loggerheads over offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean that are claimed by the Cypriots and disputed by Ankara.

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Rejecting the statements made by the Greek Foreign Ministry and the European Union officials declaring Turkey's "aforementioned activities as illegal", the ministry voiced concern that the statement did not mention the Turkish Cypriots "whose rights have been usurped since 1963" and ignored their existence in the Island.

"This provocative step raises tensions in the region", it added.

Turkey is rejecting European Union condemnation of its efforts to drill for gas in waters off the coast of Cyprus and says the bloc can not be considered an impartial mediator for the divided island.

"We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region", it said.

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