Brussels: The European Commission told Turkey and Cyprus on Monday to show restraint in a row over gas exploration in the Mediterranean and work towards solving a long-standing dispute over northern Cyprus.
A standoff between Ankara and Nicosia deepened on Monday when Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, called on the Greek Cypriot government to halt immediately gas exploration work off Cyprus. It said its navy might need to escort Ankara’s energy exploration ships in the region.
The Turkish warning followed a new round of anti-Cyprus rhetoric in Ankara on Sunday when Turkey’s deputy prime minister said Turkey would freeze relations with the European Union if it went ahead and gave Cyprus the rotating EU presidency next year.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said there were no plans to change the schedule of which EU member takes the helm of the 27-member bloc.
“We are not considering this. Cyprus is scheduled to take over the presidency in July next year,” Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels.
She said priority should be given to solving a row over northern Cyprus, which Turkey recognizes as a separate state. The north broke away from the Greek Cypriot part of the island in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup.
“The EU calls on all parties to make all efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible,” Kocijancic told a regular briefing of the EU’s executive Commission.
“All parties should exercise restraint and do their utmost to facilitate successful completion of this process,” she said.
Turkey’s EU bid has flagged since Ankara started negotiations in 2005, largely because of the stalemate over northern Cyprus and because of reservations among some EU states about the possible admission of the largely Muslim country.
EU leaders are due to review Turkey’s membership bid in December.