EU Council chief calls on Turkey to stop drilling off Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The president of the European Council urged Turkey Friday to stop “illegal” drilling off Cyprus, saying those activities harm efforts to reunify the ethnically split island nation and undermine Ankara’s relations with the EU.

Donald Tusk said his presence in the war-divided Cypriot capital is a demonstration of the European Union’s “full solidarity” with member-state Cyprus.

Last week, Turkey stepped up its actions by dispatching a warship-escorted drill ship to waters where the Cypriot government licensed Italian energy company Eni and partner Total of France to conduct an oil and gas search.

Tusk said EU leaders have already “strongly condemned” Turkey’s previous drilling in an area where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights and that the EU “stands united” with the country in light of Turkey’s latest actions.

But Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades pressed for “a more concrete response,” saying that the EU has the tools to safeguard its credibility and that “legality ought to prevail over the rule of the jungle” Turkey wants to impose in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and says it’s acting to protect its interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots with regard to the area’s energy reserves.

The European Union had previously imposed an initial batch of sanctions against Turkey over its drilling activities off Cyprus.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has said top diplomats from EU member states will decide next week how to respond to the drilling.

Cyprus has been divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974, which followed an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.