"We talked about Turkey and drilling. Our positions are clear regarding Turkey's drilling and operations in the Mediterranean - international law must be respected. Progress in EU relations with Turkey will be viewed through this prism if all Turkey's activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are terminated", Maas told reporters.
When asked whether Germany would promote any practical initiatives to end Turkey’s drilling activity during its EU presidency, Maas said that this issue was being discussed at every EU foreign ministers' meeting.
"We expect Turkey to stop drilling operations near Cyprus and not to start new activities either. This is a condition for progress. There is a large degree of unity in the EU on this issue", the German foreign minister added.
The authorities of Greece and Cyprus believe that Turkey’s plans to conduct oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean violate their sovereignty. The EU has repeatedly condemned the actions of Ankara. However, Turkey says it will not stop exploration and drilling off the shores of Cyprus. The EU has introduced personal sanctions against individuals and companies involved in the drilling, which include freezing assets and a ban on travel to EU member states.
Cyprus has been split between Greek and Turkish communities since 1974. Turkey's drilling operations in what Cyprus claims to be its exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean have long been a point of contention between Ankara and Nicosia, as well as in the larger European context. The area in question is believed to be rich in hydrocarbon reserves. Both Ankara, which backs the independence movement of the Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island, and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, believe that the exploration of natural resources in this area is their inherent right.