Turkish maritime survey activities in Cyprus 'in breach of international law'

MEPs have passed a resolution strongly condemning Turkey's maritime survey activities along the coast of Cyprus, saying they are encroaching on the EU member state's exclusive economic zone.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

14 Nov 2014

MEPs urged Turkey to withdraw its vessels immediately as their presence constitutes a violation of international law. Turkey has been carrying out oil and gas explorations within Greek-controlled Cypriot waters.

Turkey's actions have reignited tensions with the Greek-controlled southern part of Cyprus. Over the years there have been many attempts to reunify the country and renewed negotiations began earlier this year, but these are now in jeopardy.

Commissioner for neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations Johannes Hahn appeared in plenary to take part in the debate. He said "the EU urges the avoidance of any kind of threat" and promised MEPs "the issue is high on [his] agenda" and that he is "following it closely".

Elmar Brok, chair of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said Turkey is "in breach of international law". He stressed that "the EU must make sure our Cypriot friends are able to have their legitimate rights respected" and urged European deputies to "talk to Turkey to come to a solution".

"Turkey cannot continue its activity in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus" - Johannes van Baalen

Victor Boştinaru, a vice-chair of parliament's S&D group, called for "an immediate cessation of this state of affairs". He pointed out that "Turkey is a strategic partner country for the EU", and that the members of his group "give full support to Turkey's process of integration in the EU".

He added that the S&D group "[trusts] that the continuation of the talks, with no preconditions, is the answer to the Cyprus problem".

ECR deputy Charles Tannock described the recent events as "regrettable and illustrative of the Turkish disregard of the reunification process".

Speaking on behalf of the ALDE group, Johannes van Baalen said "Turkey cannot continue its activity in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus".

"[The S&D group trusts] that the continuation of the talks, with no preconditions, is the answer to the Cyprus problem" - Victor Boştinaru

GUE/NGL chair Gabi Zimmer echoed this sentiment, highlighting that "Turkey has nothing to do whatsoever" on the southern coast of Cyprus and urged the country to put a stop to its maritime explorations.

Cypriot MEP Eleni Theocharous called on her colleagues to "condemn Turkey and its actions [and] take practical measures, political and economic sanctions", explaining "it is not possible for us to appeal to Turkey".

Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Rebecca Harms, co-president of parliament's Greens/EFA group, stressed that "Turkey must fully respect the sovereignty of all EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus".

However, she disapproved of plans for Cyprus to carry out offshore gas exploration and extraction activities, suggesting instead a "sustainable economic development and a strategy which focuses on protecting [the country's] natural and marine environments".

Turkey's EU minister Volkan Bozkır, who met with commissioner Hahn earlier this week, rejected parliament's resolution, saying, "it has no validity for us".


Read the most recent articles written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli - MEPs vote against beginning negotiations on updating EU copyright laws