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Turkey:EU Drilling Sanctions Worthless 07/16 06:23

   ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey on Tuesday rejected as "worthless" an initial 
set of sanctions approved by the European Union against Ankara, and vowed to 
send a new vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce its efforts to 
drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus.

   EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its 
drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic 
rights. They said they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement, as 
well as high-level Turkey-EU dialogues, and would call on the European 
Investment Bank to review its lending to the country.

   They also backed a proposal by the EU's executive branch to reduce financial 
assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional 
"targeted measures" were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started 
negotiations to join the EU in 2005.

   Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut 
Cavusoglu said the sanctions aimed to "appease" Cyprus and were of "no 
importance."

   "The EU needs us concerning the migration issue or other issues," he said. 
"They will come to us and hold contacts; there is no escaping that."

   "They know that the decisions they took cannot be applied," he said. "They 
were forced to take the worthless decisions under pressure from the Greek 
Cypriots and Greece."

   Cavusoglu added: "If you take such decisions against Turkey, we will 
increase our activities. We have three ships in the eastern Mediterranean, will 
with send a fourth."

   Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU for ignoring the 
rights of Turkish Cypriots and accused the 28-nation bloc of "prejudice and 
bias."

   It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of 
Turkish Cypriots.

   Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end 
of ethnically divided Cyprus. A third Turkish exploration ship is also in the 
area. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that 
Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.

   Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake 
of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of 
independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops 
in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the 
internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.

   Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in 
order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean 
region.

   The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and 
gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for 
gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against 
three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now 
drilling 42 miles (68 kilometers) off the island's west coast.


(KA)

 
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