Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that the European Union had harmed itself by siding with Greek Cypriots and imposing sanctions on Turkey for drilling for gas off the island, Habertürk reported.

The bloc last month called and imposed a series of punitive measures for Turkey’s drilling activities off Cyprus, which it considers illegal. The measures included a freeze to 146 million euros of pre-accession assistance for Turkey for next year, the suspension of negotiations for an aviation agreement, and a review of lending to Turkey from the European Investment Bank.

“The EU, which announces so-called measures because of drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, is harming itself. The EU has found itself in a position where it supports inequality over equality, injustice over justice and cruelty over peace in the island,” Erdoğan said at a press conference in Ankara with Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey.

The president said that no project in the eastern Mediterranean could be realized unless Turkey and Turkish Cypriots are taken into account.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister announced on Monday that a fourth Turkish vessel had been dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean to join the Fatih and Yavuz drilling ships and Barbaros surveying vessel already searching for gas off Cyprus, despite the objections of the United States and the EU to Turkey’s increasing drilling activities near the island.

“Our naval and air forces are on duty for our vessels to carry out their (drilling) activities securely,” Erdoğan said. “Those who want to test our country’s determination in this regard should have learned their lessons.”

Turkey maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island. Turkey also has territorial claims that overlap with Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“The sacrifices Turkey has made to protect the rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots empower us,” Tatar said in Ankara, adding that the Turkish government’s steps for hydrocarbon exploration activities in the region served the people of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

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