The EU28 have called on Turkey to stop all illegal activity in the Republic of Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone and normalise its relations with Nicosia.
“The European Council strongly condemns Turkey`s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece,” said the final text of the European Council’s statement circulated late on Thursday.
“Recalling its conclusions of October 2014 and the declaration of 21 September 2005, the European Council urgently calls on Turkey to cease these actions and respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and international law.
“In this context, it recalls Turkey`s obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations, and normalise relations with all EU member states including the Republic of Cyprus.”
Regarding the two Greek soldiers under custody in Turkey, the European Council went one step further than the initial wording in the draft conclusions obtained earlier by the Cyprus News Agency, which referred to “the two Greek soldiers” captured by Turkey on the Evros border.
“The European Council expressed its grave concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey, including two Greek soldiers, and calls for the swift and positive resolution of these issues in a dialogue with member states,” the statement said.
The strongly worded final statement on Cyprus’ EEZ had been widely anticipated and the state broadcaster CyBC said the Cypriot delegation in Brussels had been satisfied with the text in its draft form.
Speaking from the Belgian capital, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone is a part of Europe and should be seen as such.
Earlier in the day and ahead of the summit, President Nicos Anastasiades met in Brussels with president of the European Council Donald Tusk to discuss the agenda and Turkey’s behaviour in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere, and according to a government source, Anastasiades placed emphasis on Turkey’s behaviour, which was contrary to Tusk`s recommendations in his statement after the informal summit of February 23.
Anastasiades also highlighted the need to send a clear message to Turkey through the summit`s conclusions, which Tusk will also convey to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the EU- Turkey summit taking place next week in Varna, Bulgaria.
Last month, a drill ship contracted by Italian oil and gas firm Eni to explore offshore Cyprus was forced to abandon the area, after Turkish warships blocked its path to its target in Block 3 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Despite criticism of Ankara’s human rights record as well as its recent military entanglement in Syria, the EU needs Turkey’s cooperation in tightening the lid on immigration into Europe from the Middle East.