President Erdoğan sends letter to EU leaders

President Erdoğan sends letter to EU leaders

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter to the heads of European Union (EU) organisations and the leaders of member states where he communicated Turkey's approach towards the Eastern Mediterranean and proposals for the solution of problems.

In his letter sent to EU member states except for Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC), President Erdoğan reminded that the Turkey-EU relations and their progress were always a matter of priority for his country and significant progress was achieved during his term in office.

Noting that there were compelling challenges in the over-60-years history of the Turkey-EU relations, Erdoğan continued as follows:

"Recently, our relations stand in the face of another novel challenge due to the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. With this letter, I would like to lay out our approach towards the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s proposals for the solution of problems. Our Eastern Mediterranean policy has two main objectives. The first one is the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas in an equitable, just and fair way in the Eastern Mediterranean in accordance with international law and the protection of our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our continental shelf. The second one is securing equal rights and interests for Turkish Cypriots over the hydrocarbon resources of the Island of Cyprus, as the co-owners of the Island.

In line with these objectives, Turkey wishes that the Eastern Mediterranean becomes a region where all parties cooperate, hydrocarbon resources are shared equitably and fairly, and where peace and stability prevail. We wish that, in the same manner that coal and steel became the starting point of the EU, hydrocarbons will lay the ground for the settlement of the Cyprus issue and constitute a basis for the formation of a wider EU."

"The root cause of the ongoing tension is not Turkey, but Greece and the GCASC"

Emphasizing that the root cause of the ongoing tension in the Eastern Mediterranean was not Turkey but Greece and the GCASC, President Erdoğan's remarks continued as follows: "The current situation stems from Greek/Greek Cypriots’ attempts to disregard Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, their unilateral steps and faits accomplis and EU’s indifference to developments since 2003. The GCASC, which became a member of the EU before the settlement of the Cyprus issue,  ignored the Turkish Cypriots and signed so-called maritime delimitation agreements with neighboring countries in 2003, 2007 and 2010, announced license areas in 2007, carried out international tenders and conducted its first drilling operation in 2011.

Noting that Greece, along with the GCA, tried to impose on Turkey its maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims that aim to imprison Turkey inside the Gulf of Antalya (Sevilla Map) by using the EU and claimed that these are national and EU's external maritime boundaries, Erdoğan stated in his letter as follows: "Greek/Greek Cypriot duo further went on to establish a mechanism under the name of Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum against Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots and also founded tripartite and quadripartite mechanisms of cooperation against Turkey with countries in the region. In order to protect both its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots, Turkey placed emphasis on diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean; however, when our calls for dialogue and cooperation did not yield any results, Turkey started to take steps on the ground in 2018, after waiting for 7 years."

"Demands for the halt of hydrocarbon research activities are unfair and unjust..."

 Stating that Turkey advocated a just and equitable delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean in accordance with international law, President Erdoğan continued as follows:

For this purpose, I would like to emphasize once again that we are ready for dialogue with Greece without any preconditions. In this context, I would like to point out that we have supported NATO Secretary General's initiative for de-confliction among naval and air vessels from the very beginning in order to reduce tension. On the other hand, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots should establish a cooperation mechanism, including an equitable revenue sharing of hydrocarbon resources, as co-founders of the dissolved Republic of Cyprus and co-owners of the Island. In order to establish such a cooperation mechanism, there is no need to wait for the settlement of the Cyprus issue. Because both parties on the island operate through international oil companies in their respective designated license areas. Only the two peoples on the Island should decide together whether to suspend or continue these activities.

I also believe it would be extremely beneficial to establish an inclusive energy cooperation forum that will bring together all parties in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Turkish Cypriots. Turkey stands ready to give every support to steps in this direction.

I wish that the EU supports these thoughts of ours, drops the partial position that it has taken up against a candidate country, Turkey, and does not unjustly and unconditionally advocate the maximalist theses of Greece and the GCASC. The partial stance that the EU has been demonstrating against my country contravenes the EU acquis and international law. This very partial stance complicates the solution, heightens tensions and harms Turkey-EU relations, as well as our common interests in many areas.  Our expectation from the EU is to remain impartial, to maintain an equal distance from everyone, as well as to promote dialogue and cooperation. It is unfair and unjust to demand that Turkey and Turkish Cypriots halt their hydrocarbon research activities before the above-mentioned steps are taken."

"And we have not yielded to the maximalist demands that have been attempted to be imposed upon us through the EU"

Emphasizing that the good faith shown by Turkey in that regard at the end of the month of July, upon the request of Germany as President of the EU Council, was met by Greece with the delimitation agreement signed with Egypt on August 6, 2020, and that exacerbated distrust, President Erdoğan said:

No one should expect Turkey, with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, to be confined to her territorial waters, while the coastal states of the Eastern Mediterranean carry on their hydrocarbon programs and activities, the axes of malice against Turkey continue and the Turkish Cypriots are ignored.

We have always stood ready for dialogue and cooperation. And we have not yielded to the maximalist demands that have been attempted to be imposed upon us through the EU. We are not after the rights of any country. However, we have always protected and will continue to protect our rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots as the guarantor power. It is our common responsibility to find an equitable and peaceful solution to the issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this regard, dialogue and cooperation should be promoted and steps and decisions which could further aggravate the current crisis should be avoided.

Our sincere desire is the revision of the 18 March 2016 Statement, with due consideration to the current circumstances, and a step by step strengthening of Turkey-EU relations with all its aspects and in line with our common interests. I believe that the path to achieve this goes through the awareness of the vital importance that our relations entail for our common interests in many various areas, such as illegal migration, terrorism, trade, energy, and I look forward to your valuable support to this end."