Erdogan Warns Cyprus, Greece Over Offshore Energy Drilling

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech to members of parliament of his ruling Justice and Development Party at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Defied by American energy giant ExxonMobil that went ahead with drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said again he wouldn’t tolerate foreign companies looking for energy in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The reckless behavior of Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration (in hydrocarbon search in the eastern Mediterranean) by receiving support from several European states has become a threat and danger primarily for themselves,” Erdoğan said at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) parliamentary group meeting, the pro-government Daily Sabah reported.

“As Turkey, we will not make the slightest concession from our theses neither in the eastern Mediterranean or any other region and will defend our rights up to the end,” he added.

Erdogan had sent warships off Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize, in a bid to keep foreign companies away and earlier this year a vessel from the Italian company Eni was driven off under the threat of being sunk but ExxonMobil hasn’t been deterred, with the Cypriot government confident the US company would be protected by the US Navy Sixth Fleet in the region.

On Oct. 18, the Turkish Navy blocked a Greek frigate it said was trying to interfere with Turkey’s first seismic vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa, an incident which increased tensions.

In remarks to CNN Turk, Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci referred to the blockade last February by Turkish warships of Block 3 of Cyprus’s EEZ, preventing the approach of drillships.
“We can’t obstruct them forever. So what must we do? Begin our own drilling,” Akinci said, adding that “Turkey will drill in its own areas and ours on our behalf.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier told the Cypriot paper Politis that Ankara is not against drilling but against what he described as unilateral actions by Greek Cypriots.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he’s willing to share any potentially lucrative finds with Turkish-Cypriots who’ve been occupying the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion but Erdogan and Akinci said that’s not enough and they want Turkish-Cypriots to take part in the licensing process as well.

There were hopes that energy finds could be the linchpin that would bring reunification of the island but instead the prospect has increased tension after negotiations fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Akinci and Erdogan said they would never remove an army in the occupied area and wanted the right to militarily intervene again.