Turkey on Thursday criticized Italy over "unfortunate" comments on Ankara's maritime agreement with Libya's UN-recognized government in Tripoli demarcating boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"We invite all EU members, especially Italy, to abandon their attitudes that ignore the Turkish Cypriots," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
Italy's foreign minister and his counterpart from the Greek Cypriot administration released a joint statement on Wednesday against the maritime agreement between Turkey and Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA).
Aksoy underlined that as co-existing communities, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) had equal rights with Greek Cypriots over oil and gas in the waters surrounding the island.
He reiterated that the TRNC granted the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) exploration and drilling licenses based on these rights in 2011.
The ongoing research and drilling activities of the TPAO with these licenses aim to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots, not Turkey, Aksoy said.
He added that the TPAO's efforts would not halt before these rights were guaranteed through the joint cessation of all "off-shore" activities to the south of the island until the Cyprus issue is resolved, or when cooperation could be achieved between the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration.
Aksoy further stressed that maritime jurisdictions in the west of Cyprus could only be limited after the Cyprus issue is resolved.
Referring to the Greek Cypriot administration, he emphasized that it would not be possible for Turkey to enter negotiations with an entity that did not represent Turkish Cypriots and "appropriated" the title Republic of Cyprus since 1963.
Aksoy said Ankara also rejected criticism against its memorandum of understanding with Libya, adding that the fact that EU countries, including Italy, were silent on a similar 2003 deal between the Greek Cypriot administration and Egypt showed that their policy is "contradictory" and "inconsistent."
He stressed that Turkey would continue to protect the rights of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- Drilling in the Eastern Med
On Nov. 27, Ankara and the Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The maritime pact asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on Dec. 8.
It further underlined that Ankara had a say in projects that involve it as it has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean and that it is prepared to cooperate with all countries in the region except the Greek Cypriot administration.
Turkey is a guarantor nation for the TRNC and has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
In 1974, following a coup aimed at the annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece and the U.K. -- came to an end without any progress in 2017 in Switzerland.
By Dilara Hamit