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Turkey says it will increase Cyprus activities after EU measures

By AFP - Jul 17,2019 - Last updated at Jul 17,2019

ANKARA — Turkey will "increase" its activities off Cyprus after the EU approved measures to punish Ankara for drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday.

EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed measures including cutting 145.8 million euros ($164 million) in pre-accession financial funds to Turkey allocated for 2020.

The move came after Ankara repeatedly ignored warnings by the European Union and the United States to cease its drilling activities off Cyprus.

"If you take these kinds of decisions, we will increase our activities," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a televised press conference in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje.

Turkey has already sent three ships to drill for oil and gas off Cyprus, Cavusoglu said, adding: "God willing, we will send a fourth ship soon to the eastern Mediterranean."

Earlier on Tuesday, the foreign ministry said in a statement that the bloc's move would "in no way affect Turkey's determination to continue its hydrocarbon activities".

The ministry accused the EU of being “prejudiced and biased” over the lack of reference to Turkish Cypriots, “who have equal rights” over Cyprus’ natural resources.

Cyprus has been divided between the Republic of Cyprus — an EU member state — and a northern third under Turkish military control since 1974 after Turkey occupied the area in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has fuelled a race to tap the underwater resources, and ignited a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus.

Turkish officials have previously said the areas where the ships are located are either part of Turkey’s continental shelf or part of the territory of the island’s northern third.

Other EU measures taken against Ankara included halting high-level dialogue with Turkey and suspending talks over an aviation agreement.

The bloc’s foreign ministers also told the European Commission to keep working on possible financial sanctions targeting those involved in the drilling operations.

The Turkish ministry said the EU was engaging in “unconstructive behaviour” instead of “encouraging the two sides to come together with regard to the hydrocarbon resources”.

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