US Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Turkey’s continuing belligerence and sending warships to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus is proof enough for a change in policy that gives preference to Greece and Cyprus instead.
Speaking during a fundraising event in Astoria, N.Y. he said that the State Department and Congress have to differentiate their views because of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s constant provocations in the Aegean.
He said he told the State Department that Turkey can’t keep sending its military ships to harass oil companies although a US company – with ships from the US Navy Sixth Fleet nearby – was able to proceed earlier to the spot where it has a license after the Turkish warships kept out an Italian company from another area.
I hope that we will now be able to push more intensely for those matters and succeed in changing the traditional views about Turkey in the State Department, as well as among members of the Congress, he added, pointing that Turkey is moving to the opposite direction,” said Menendez.
Erdogan said if Cyprus goes ahead with letting foreign energy companies drill for oil and gas off the divided island’s coast that it bring a security threat in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean where there’s already tension because he Erdogan, on an official visit to Britain, made the comment in a speech at the Chatham House think tank in London, Reuters reported. He said Cyprus – the legitimate government – must allow Turkish-Cypriots in the northern third that has been occupied since a 1974 to have a say the drilling licenses.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had already agreed to share revenues with both sides of the island without explaining why he would let an occupying country reap the benefits of potentially lucrative finds.
Turkey does not recognize parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) nor the laws of the sea except when it’s beneficial and claims that part of the Cyprus offshore area is under the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots or Turkey.
The Turkish Navy had kept out a drilling ship from the Italy company Eni, whose Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi said is a problem that can only be solved diplomatically and that he would have to move the ship but not withdraw from Cyprus.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak said that Turkey would begin its first solo oil and gas deepwater drilling in the Mediterranean before the end of this summer, according to OilPrice.com which reported on the London event.
The energy battle is further obscuring hopes for a restart to collapsed energy talks that fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Anastasiades would not agree to a demand from Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to keep an army on the island and the right to militarily intervene.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who presided over the debacle in Switzerland and then put out a report blaming nobody for anything, wants to send American diplomat Jane Holl Lute as the latest envoy to try to take a shot at brokering a deal but Turkey hasn’t yet agreed.
Erdogan called snap elections for June 24 and has been ramping up populist rhetoric in what critics said is a bid to raise a nationalist frenzy around his agenda, which includes coveting the return of Greek islands ceded away under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and what Anastasiades said is the total occupation of Cyprus.
The Cyprus News Agency (CNA) said that Greece and Britain have given the go-ahead for Lute to hold contacts with the two Cypriot leaders and the three guarantor powers – which includes Turkey – which has not given its approval, stymying the move.
The UN has a June 15 deadline to prepare Guterres’ report on UNFICYP, the peacekeeping force in Cyprus.
CNA also said Turkey’s hopes of drilling an offshore well in the Eastern Mediterranean has run into problems. “They have the drill ship, they have the people, however, they can’t find companies to cooperate” with them, a source told the agency.