NICOSIA– Cyprus will continue to hinder Turkey’s EU membership talks unless it stops its alleged harassment of the island in its search for offshore mineral deposits, Cyprus’ foreign minister said Monday.
Markos Kyprianou accused Ankara of behaving like a “neighborhood bully.”
Kyprianou said Cyprus will not agree to restart suspended EU-Turkey negotiations concerning energy as long as Turkish warships interfere with surveys off the island’s southern coast.
The island has been ethnically split into an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island.
Cyprus became an EU country in 2004, but Turkey does not recognize the island’s government.
“It’s up to Turkey. If it pledges to behave like a modern state in the 21st century that wants to join the European Union and makes those necessary actions, Cyprus will then have no reason to raise objections,” Kyprianou said.
Turkey has threatened to “naturally defend” legal rights and interests in the wider maritime region and insists Turkish Cypriots should have a say in how the island’s oil and gas rights are used.
Kyprianou was responding to a decision by Turkey’s Cabinet last week, granting approval to the Turkish Petroleum Corp. to start a major geological survey for oil-and-gas deposits off its country’s southern coast.
The tense relations have already affected Turkey’s EU entry negotiations which have made scant progress since they began in 2005.
The spat has also complicated plans by the European Commission which has urged EU countries to open talks with Turkey on energy and speed up EU efforts to find alternative gas and oil routes.
The EU gets most of its natural gas from Russia through the Ukraine. However, a price dispute between Russia and Ukraine led to supply cutoffs last winter.
Turkey’s chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis last month accused Cyprus of jeopardizing Europe’s energy needs by blocking the energy chapter.