Greece Calls for Tougher EU Stance Over Turkish Mediterranean Exploration


Greece urged the European Union on Wednesday to reconsider its customs union with Turkey in response to Ankara's continued gas exploration in contested Mediterranean areas, deploring what it termed Ankara's "imperial fantasies."

After meeting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Nicosia, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said they all agreed that Ankara is "blatantly" violating international law.

"Turkey's leadership has fantasies of imperial behavior with aggressive behavior from Syria to Libya, Somalia to Cyprus, from the Aegean to the Caucus," he said.

The EU should also take note of Turkey's 'many violations' of the EU-Turkey customs union accord, Mitsotakis said.

"It is not possible for a state, a third state, a country which is a candidate for EU membership, to be exempt from (customs) duties, to reap the benefits of the common market but at the same time threaten the eastern borders of the European Union," he said.

Huge gas finds off Egypt and Israel in recent years have prompted a rush of Mediterranean states claiming waters for future hydrocarbons research, exposing deep and longstanding disagreements.

Tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece over maritime boundaries have rekindled since August, when Turkey dispatched a seismic survey vessel to a disputed area. Ankara has also sent a drillship to a position off the coast of ethnically split Cyprus.

The attempt to stake rival claims has also brought other players into the fray; Turkey and Libya agreed on sea boundaries last year, a pact which Athens says infringes its continental shelf.

This year Greece signed a deal outlining a maritime boundary with Egypt, infuriating Turkey which says it encroaches on its territory.

Greece, Egypt and Cyprus hold regular summits to further regional cooperation. Sisi described the tripartite cooperation mechanism as 'unique'.

The accords defining maritime borders, Sisi said, reflected the will to benefit from 'wealth available, especially promising oil and gas reserves'.

"We agreed on the need to address those escalatory policies that destabilize the region, and the need to coordinate with international partners to take appropriate measures to maintain regional security requirements," Sisi said. 

(Reporting By Michele Kambas and Renee Maltezou in Nicosia and Athens, and Mohamed Wali in Cairo, Editing by William Maclean)

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