Turkey on Tuesday hit back at E.U. measures designed to punish Ankara for its illegal drilling operations off Cyprus, alleging anti-Turkish “prejudice and bias” in the decision while adding ta fine will “in no way” affect the country’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
E.U. foreign ministers on Monday agreed on punitive 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, claiming it had the right to continue regardless of criticism.
The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked an ongoing dispute between E.U. member Cyprus and Turkey, with Ankara last month sending a second ship called Yavuz to search for natural resources in the region.
In June, E.U. leaders warned Turkey to end drilling in waters around the island or face action from the bloc.
“The conclusions adopted by (the bloc’s foreign ministers)… will in no way affect Turkey’s determination to continue its hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry accused the E.U. of being “prejudiced and biased” over the lack of reference to Turkish Cypriots, “who have equal rights over the natural resources of the island.”
Turkey has had thousands of troops stationed in the northern third of the island since invading in 1974 in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.
The northern part of the island was declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognised by Ankara. UN-sponsored efforts to reunify the island have failed.
Turkey currently has two ships drilling for oil and gas in the disputed zone. Turkish officials have previously said the areas where the ships are either part of Turkey’s continental shelf or part of the territory of the island’s northern third.
The United States and Egypt also warned Turkey previously against escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
“The United States remains deeply concerned by Turkey’s repeated attempts to conduct drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus,” the State Department said in a statement last month.
“We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” it said.
AFP contributed to this story