EU warns Turkey after its warships force gas rig to halt

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, left, speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk during a round table at an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. European Union leaders meet without Britain Friday looking to plug a major budget hole after Brexit and endorse a plan to streamline the European Parliament by sharing out the country's seats. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The European Union warned Turkey on Friday to rein in its navy after Turkish warships threatened and blocked an Italian rig from reaching a site southeast of Cyprus where it was to drill for natural gas

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The European Union warned Turkey on Friday to rein in its navy after Turkish warships threatened and blocked a rig from reaching a site southeast of Cyprus where it was to drill for natural gas.

EU leaders said they could abandon a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next month and expressed solidarity with Cyprus and Greece.

Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis told local TV station Antenna that the rig's skipper showed "great determination" to reach the target where Italian company Eni was scheduled to carry out exploratory drilling. But he said Turkish warships "threatened to use force," got in the rig's way and stepped up their threats the closer the rig came to the drilling site, forcing it to stop.

EU Council President Donald Tusk, speaking Friday in Brussels after chairing a summit of EU leaders, said they "urgently call on Turkey to terminate these activities."

Tusk said the leaders underlined the right of Cyprus "to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and international law."

He said the EU is "ready to cooperate with Turkey" but will assess at their March 22-23 summit whether to go ahead with a meeting with Erdogan on March 26 in Bulgaria.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the EU needed to send Turkey a clear message that its relations with the 28-member bloc can't move forward "in the face of constant breaches of the sovereign rights" of EU countries.

Turkey says it won't allow the government in Cyprus to proceed with a "unilateral" offshore gas search as long as the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the ethnically split island's resources are being ignored.

The Cyprus government says drilling off its shores is its sovereign right and will benefit all Cypriot citizens after the island is reunified.

Lakkotrypis said the Cyprus government had agreed with Eni to make another attempt to reach the area, known as Block 3, southeast of Cyprus. The Saipem 12000 rig had been anchored 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the drilling target since Feb. 9 when Turkish warships initially blocked its course, saying they were conducting military maneuvers.

Cyprus spokesman Nikos Christodoulides told state broadcaster RIK that Eni's exploratory drilling at Block 3 has been put off and the rig will move on to Morocco.

Lakkotrypis called the incident a setback, but said Turkey won't stop Cyprus' offshore gas search. Cyprus has issued drilling licenses to other companies, including France's Total and ExxonMobil, which will start exploratory drilling later this year.

Earlier this month, Cyprus said that Eni discovered a potentially significant gas deposit at another site southwest of the island.

___

Lorne Cook in Brussels and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

Related News

Iraqi Kurdish vote latest in series of de facto...

Sep 26, 2017

Iraqi Kurds' independence vote could mean further instability in Mideast, which has seen several de...

Existing only from the Nile, Egypt fears disaster...

Oct 2, 2017

Egypt fears disastrous blow to its lifeline, the Nile River, as Ethiopia rushes to finish massive...

In Egypt, archaeologists find part of...

Oct 18, 2017

Egyptian archaeologists uncover part of 4,000-year-old wooden statue likely depicting female regent...

Scientists discover hidden chamber in Egypt's...

Nov 2, 2017

Scientists say they have found a previously undiscovered hidden chamber in Egypt's Great Pyramid of...

Archaeologists discover 2 ancient tombs in...

Dec 9, 2017

Egypt's Antiquities Ministry says archaeologists have uncovered two ancient tombs in the southern...

Iran's working class, facing dim prospects, fuels...

Jan 6, 2018

Iran's protests over the past week have been centered in dozens of long-neglected cities and towns,...

Sign up now!

About Us

What if you could see what will happen to the world in the next 10 years? In The Daily Futurist, we explore mostly on geography, archaeology and natural science. See the future here in The Daily Futurist.

Contact us: sales[at]thedailyfuturist.com