NICOSIA – As Turkey has tried to keep foreign energy companies from drilling off the coast of Cyprus – including France’s Total – the French Navy is going to be allowed to use a naval station at Mari to service its warships and it will be renovated to make room for bigger vessels.
Cypriot Defense Minister Savvas Angelides and French defense chief Florence Parly signed a statement of intent, said the news website politis.com.cy.
In an official announcement cited by the website, the two sides “have confirmed in writing the two countries’ intention to cooperate with a view to strengthening the military capabilities of the Republic of Cyprus and for a broad strategic cooperation for the benefit of the two countries’ naval forces.”
Reports said both countries will share in the cost of a new docking area at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari to allow larger warships to dock. Work has already started to upgrade the naval base, the website said.
The operational centre of the French warships will be the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle which is patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean in an area near where Turkey is sending two research vessels to look for oil and gas, violating Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Angelides also briefed Parly on Turkey’s activities inside Cyprus’ EEZ as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up tension in the seas there, including having warships guarding the Turkish research vessels.
The French minister reiterated her country’s strong support for the island and condemned Turkey’s activities which, she said, violated international law and Cyprus’ sovereign rights as Turkey said it’s acting in accordance with international laws it doesn’t recognize.
Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said that with Turkey upping provocations despite support for Cyprus from the European Union and the United States that, “the best response is for us to continue to implement our energy strategy unfettered.”
He earlier confirmed another agreement is in store with the joint venture of Total and the Italian energy company ENI – which had backed off drilling earlier when a Turkish warship approached.
In an interview with Kathimerini, he said the country is focused on partnerships such as the East Med Gas Forum and the role of the EU and US in ensuring stability for investors. As for the Turkish claims, he stressed that Cyprus “is ready for all scenarios” but added that “we need to avoid playing the destabilization game that Turkey is pursuing.”
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said he would issue a demarche to British Prime Minister Theresa May over what he called “unacceptable” comments made in the British Parliament by UK Minister of State for Europe Alan Duncan, who said Cyprus’ EEZ is an area where “sovereignty is under dispute,” indicating support for Turkey’s drilling plans.