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UPDATE 2-Cyprus says it is ready for dialogue with Turkey "without threats"

16 Sep 2020 / 23:49 H.

    (Adds comments from Turkish deputy foreign minister)

    ATHENS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Cyprus is ready to engage in talks with Turkey to resolve differences but only "without blackmail and threats", President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday.

    The two countries are locked in a dispute over drilling rights in the Mediterranean, and Turkey said on Tuesday it had extended a drilling vessel's operations in disputed waters off Cyprus until Oct. 12.

    "Nicosia has been always ready for a dialogue but for that...to be effective, it needs to be clearly defined based on international law, without blackmail or threats," Anastasiades said after talks in Nicosia with European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits.

    Anastasiades said Turkey's move to extend the Yavuz drilling ship's operations came at a time when the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member state, was taking a series of initiatives to try to reduce tensions.

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday nothing could justify the intimidation of Greece and Cyprus by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

    EU leaders will look for a way to defuse tensions in the eastern Mediterranean when they hold a summit on Sept. 24-25.

    "In view of the EU Council meeting next week, we underscored the importance of staying united on the messages (to Turkey) and determined to implement our decisions if the illicit actions continue," Anastasiades said.

    Speaking at an online panel on EU-Turkey relations, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakci said Turkey's operations in the eastern Mediterranean were in response to the "unilateral actions" by Greek Cypriots and Greece, and not an intimidation.

    "This is not an intimidation, this is just to say that Turkey will continue to defend its own rights and also the rights of Turkish Cypriots, who were cheated by Greek Cypriots and the EU," Kaymakci said, referring to several failed efforts to unite the island of Cyprus.

    The island was split after a 1974 Turkish invasion spurred by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Turkey recognises the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north, but not the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government.

    The Greek Cypriot government has long been at loggerheads with Turkey, which began drilling for oil and gas near Cyprus last year. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by George Georgiopoulos, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Angus MacSwan)

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