Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras flew to Belgian capital Brussels today to attend a two-day summit held by the European Union (EU), in which he plans to push for measures to be taken against Turkey over the controversy in the eastern Mediterranean.
The effort taken by Tsipras is largely based on a call by the EU General Affairs Council on Tuesday to take “appropriate measures” against Turkey, which the Greek government saw as “positive”.
Over the past month, the two countries have been engaged in a dispute over vast natural gas reserves discovered off the coast of Cyprus, which remains split between Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south.
Earlier this month, Greece, the Republic of Cyprus and Israel struck a deal which will see a pipeline to harness the natural gas reserves built off the island’s southern coast. The EastMed pipeline – which is predicted to produce a profit of $9 billion over eighteen years of drilling – will supply gas from the region to countries in Europe.
Turkey, however, has expressed its displeasure at being excluded from such a deal and has sent its own drilling vessels to the waters off the east coast of Cyprus to search for further reserves of natural gas.
Yesterday Turkey sent yet another drilling vessel and made an agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to establish naval and air bases in the north of the island, as well as a new sea port in order to guarantee the security of its drilling operations.
Due to this controversy – which Greece and southern Cyprus sees as a direct incursion into the latter’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – both states have urged the EU to apply pressure on Turkey to halt the drilling. Some have even called for the imposition of sanctions on Turkey as a result of its actions.
If Tsipras does indeed call for sanctions on Turkey during the EU summit, this could threaten Ankara’s long-standing bid to gain membership into the union.