Cyprus’ Anastasiades warns against Turkey’s illegal drillings amid negotiations on recovery fund

Amid key negotiations among EU leaders during an extraordinary summit on the bloc’s fiscal response to the Coronavirus crisis, the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades seized the opportunity to also warn against Turkey’s continuous violations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Anastasiades raised the issue on Saturday, during a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as Germany assumed the rotating EU Council Presidency on July 1.

According to the Cypriot government’s spokesperson, Anastasiades told Merkel that the EU should take all necessary actions to end the Turkish violations in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and that the country is willing to restart Cyprus talks as soon as possible.

His warnings followed Ankara’s announcement that it will proceed with the planned hydrocarbon and oil exploration activities in the region. Brussels has frequently urged Turkey to halt its drilling activities, with its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell threatening of sanctions if Ankara ignores EU warnings.

Borrell is also set to present a list of “further appropriate measures” by late August for the violations of both Cyprus’ and Greece’s territorial sovereignty. 

While the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias is pushing for sanctions against Ankara, for the Commission, imposing sanctions is “in principle” not on the table.

Earlier in July, Turkey’s top administrative court paved the way for the Byzantine-era Cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage site of Hagia Sophia to be turned back into a mosque, after it annuled a 1934 decision that made the site a museum. The same day, the Turkish President signed a decree confirming the conversion, with the first prayer set to be held on July 24.

The move faced acute criticism by the international community, which slammed the degeneration of the UNESCO site and requested that Erdogan reconsiders the decision.

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