NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – The European Union will assist Cyprus in negotiating the maritime border with neighboring Turkey to end an ongoing struggle that has intensified tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, EU chief for foreign policy Josep Borrell Thursday.
Borrell said the 27-strong block supports Cyprus’s call to Turkey to negotiate a maritime border agreement and will support these efforts to support regional stability.
“We welcome the invitation from the government of Cyprus to Turkey to negotiate in good faith the maritime demarcation between their relevant coasts,” said Borrell after speaking to Cyprus foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides.
“And we will also be involved because regional stability is a priority of the European Union.”
Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a state and has sent warship-escorted ships to drill gas in waters where the ethnically split island nation has exclusive economic rights.
Turkey claims nearly half of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone and says it is acting to protect its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north of the island.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup d’état for union with Greece. Although Cyprus is an EU member, only the internationally recognized south benefits from full membership.
Cyprus accuses Turkey of ignoring international law and using violence to find its own way in the region, calling it part of “alarming behavior” which destroys the movements of other countries in the region to forge partnerships.
Significant gas supplies have been found in areas where Cyprus has licensed companies such as French Total, Italian Eni and ExxonMobil to search for hydrocarbons in recent years.
“Turkey stands out in the region as a lone spoiler that seeks to undermine regional cooperation, stability and security,” said Christodoulides. “We also see this in Libya, Syria, Iraq.”
Spokesman for the Cyprus Deputy Government said Borrell said at a meeting to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades that the EU will “continue to send clear messages to Ankara to respect international law” and that the block will “put pressure on Turkey to put an immediate end to his violations “.
Borrell reiterated that the EU fully supports Cyprus’s sovereign rights and has taken concrete steps to strengthen his words. The block has imposed sanctions on the top officials of the Turkish petroleum company for drilling in Cypriot waters.
Praising Cyprus for trying to avoid an escalation “that could harm all of us”, the EU official said that negotiations on maritime borders should be in line with international law and good neighborly relations.
“That is why the European Union was invented to promote relations with good neighbors and find solutions through dialogue and negotiation,” said Borrell.
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