13:14 GMT17 February 2020
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The European Union does not have the authority to define boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakci said on Tuesday, reacting to the bloc's recent threats of sanctions over Turkish drilling in disputed waters near Cyprus.

    "We should cooperate [in the Mediterranean], but we cannot try to define the borders of states via maritime projects. The borders of countries can only be determined by the countries in question but not the European Union. The European Union has no jurisdiction to define the borders either in the Black Sea or in the Mediterranean Sea", Kaymakci said at the first joint conference between the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the European Union in Brussels.

    According to the official, Turkey hopes that energy will become a sphere of cooperation, not one of "tension or conflict".

    Earlier in the day, the Council of the European Union called on Turkey to respect the rights of Cyprus in connection with drilling by Ankara for energy reserves off the island's coast, and instructed the European Commission and other bodies to immediately submit response options.

    Due to overlapping claims of jurisdiction over areas surrounding Cyprus, the exploration of hydrocarbon resources off the coast of the island has been a hot issue ever since the first gas deposits were discovered there in 2011.

    Last week, Turkey said that it would not back down from gas exploration and extraction in the waters around Cyprus. Greek Cypriots say that Turkey is violating Cyprus’s exclusive commercial area.

    The island nation of Cyprus has for decades been divided into the Republic of Cyprus and the non-recognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

    The crisis began in 1974 when Turkey sent troops to the island in response to an attempted coup by the Greek military.

    As a result, Ankara occupied nearly 40 percent of the island's territory, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed within those environs in 1983. Turkey remains the only country in the world that recognizes this republic.

    In May, the Turkish drill ship Fatih anchored west of Cyprus, prompting the latter to issue warrants for the Turkish crew. A second Turkish vessel is expected to set off for an area to the east of Cyprus.



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