Ankara condemns European Council over its criticism of Turkey’s actions in Mediterranean

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Friday rejected conclusions reached by the European Council about Turkey and accused the EU of bias.

On Thursday, the council in a meeting ahead of a Turkey-EU summit in Varna on March 26 had condemned Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, which separate Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration.

The European Council strongly condemned what it calls Turkey’s “illegal actions” in the Mediterranean and Aegean, in a statement detailing its conclusions following a Thursday evening summit. The actions include Turkey’s blockade of a drilling ship, the Saipem 12000, leased by Italian energy giant Eni for gas drilling at an offshore field in the eastern Aegean.

After two weeks of being blocked off the southeastern coast of Cyprus by the Turkish Navy, Eni was forced to abandon its planned exploration, despite having a license to operate from the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia. Turkey claims that part of the gas field off Cyprus belongs to Northern Cyprus, the Turkish part of the island.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said Italy has “great concerns” over “some of Turkey’s recent behaviors.”

“Our position has always been in favor of involvement between the European Union’s institutional heads and the Turkish authorities,” he said.

In a statement the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that “such wording based solely on Greek Cypriot and Greek claims is unacceptable and creates an opportunity for other countries to hide behind them.”

The ministry accused the EU of a lack of objectivity in the Cyprus issue. “The EU’s expression of unconditional solidarity to a country is based solely on membership status regardless of the legitimacy of the country’s position.

“As long as this stance continues, it will not be possible to accept the EU even as merely a third party in the Cyprus issue. We find it peculiar that our NATO allies within the EU support the actions of the Greek Cypriot Administration, which do not comply with international law. At the same time, they adopt discourse that is far from showing any solidarity with Turkey, a country devotedly fighting against various terrorist entities that also constitute a threat to the EU,” the ministry added.

Also on Friday, autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that the rights of Turkish Cypriots to hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean should be protected, a presidential source said.

The European Council also expressed “grave concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey, including two Greek soldiers” and said it “calls for the swift and positive resolution of these issues in a dialogue with Member States.” The Council said it “recalls Turkey’s obligation to respect International Law” and “to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources.”

Erdoğan has also reportedly said that he was disturbed by claims about Turkey’s military campaign in Syria’s Afrin region that he said were baseless. Among Turkey’s Western allies, France has been one of the biggest critics of the two-month-old Turkish military operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Afrin. Turkish forces stormed Afrin city center on Sunday.

Last month, the United States and France called on Turkey to halt the operation in northern Syria to comply with a United Nations resolution requiring a ceasefire in all of Syria. The resolution excluded military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Qaeda and groups associated with them or other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council.

Ankara, which considers the Kurdish YPG militia a terror organization, strongly rejected the call from its two NATO allies, accusing France of giving “false information” on the issue.

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