Cyprus confident of tougher EU stance against Turkey in offshore gas dispute

ATHENS (Reuters) – Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday he was confident the European Union would take a tougher stance toward Turkey in an escalating dispute over offshore oil and gas, which is also jeopardizing EU enlargement talks.

EU member Cyprus on Monday threatened to block any agreement to admit new members to the European Union unless Brussels toughens its line toward Turkey over offshore drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. The Greek Cypriot government says the drilling violates Cyprus’s exclusive commercial area.

“I’m optimistic … that the European Union will deliver stronger messages from what they have until today, and that is our objective,” Anastasiades told reporters in Nicosia.

A Turkish drill ship has been docked west of Cyprus since early May, effectively staking a claim to an area also claimed by Cyprus. Later this week, a second Turkish vessel is due to set off for a location to the east of the island.

EU ministers were to meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss starting formal membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

But on Monday, national diplomats from individual states failed to reach consensus on a joint draft statement which would have spelled out next steps toward enlargement, in part because of Cypriot objections.

Asked if Nicosia would block any final conclusions of the foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Anastasiades said: “Allow us to handle this appropriately based on developments. It is not with statements which sound like Turkish rhetoric that you reach your objective.”

Turkey and the internationally recognized Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction over areas around Cyprus, a region thought to be rich in natural gas.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 in a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Turkey supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island.

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