Cyprus’ foreign ministry says Turkey’s bid to drill for natural gas in waters where the island nation has exclusive economic rights is a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty under international law.
The ministry in a statement on Sat-urday says the bid shows Turkey’s “real intentions” of undermining efforts to restart talks aimed at re-unifying the ethnically divided country.
The ministry says Cyprus, a European Union member, is taking “all necessary measures” to deal with the situation.
EU Foreign Minister Federica Mog-herini is expressing the bloc’s “grave concern” over Turkey’s intention to drill inside Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Mogherini says the EU urgently calls on Turkey to show restraint, respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights and refrain from any illegal action to which the bloc “will respond appropriately in full solidarity” with Cyprus.
US calls on Turkey to cancel drilling plans
The State Department is calling on Turkey to reverse its decision to begin drilling operations within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus calls the decision “highly provocative” that “risks raising tensions in the region.”
“The United States is deeply concerned by Turkey’s announced intentions to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its Exclusive Economic Zone,” Ortagus said Sunday.
“This step is highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint.”
Athens keeps eye on Turkey’s East Med actions
The European Union has expressed its “grave concern” and pledged to “respond appropriately and in full solidarity” with Cyprus in response to Turkey’s plans to conduct drilling operations within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Turkey’s moves have raised concerns in Athens of a renewed period of tension over the summer, as they come during a protracted election period in Greece, with all the vulnerabilities that entails.
The Greek Foreign Ministry also denounced Turkey’s decision and called on Ankara to “immediately cease its illegal activities, to respect Cyprus’s inalienable sovereign rights and to desist from further actions that undermine stability in the region.”
Analysts note that the location where Turkey’s Fatih vessels plans to drill off Cyprus’ western coast was chosen deliberately, as it could challenge the position of Greece and Cyprus that they have contiguous continental shelves.
Moreover, Turkey’s intention to also begin seismic research south of the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo is also seen as an escalation by Ankara in its bid to to solidify its claims in the East Mediterranean. This is further demonstrated by the constant presence of Turkish vessels south of Cyprus.
Furthermore, the spike in Turkish airspace violations over the Aegean, leading to daily mock dogfights with Greek fighter jets, is also seen as a indication of Ankara’s intentions.
Turkey’s claims in the Aegean and the Mediterranean are more or less encapsulated in the so-called notion of a “Blue Homeland” peddled by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which refers to a vast area of Turkish interests expanding across half of the East Mediterranean – including the continental shelves of Cyprus, Rhodes, Kastellorizo, Karpathos, Kassos and the eastern section of Crete.
Although the question remains open as to what lengths Turkey is willing to go in pursuit of these interests, cynics recall the crisis on the eastern Aegean islets of Imia in 1996 which brought the two countries on the brink of war.