Long after the United States and European Union backed Cyprus’ right to license foreign companies to drill for oil and gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras said Turkey should back off plans to do the same in the waters.
Speaking in an interview on Alpha TV, Tsipras said while Greece wants a diplomatic approach to the growing intensity over Turkish provocations that there will no tolerance over the violations, with Greece and Turkey both guarantors of security for Cyprus, along with the former Colonial ruler, the United Kingdom, which still has a military base there.
He said Greece will remain vigilant and on guard for a “hot incident,” a conflict that could break out accidentally or otherwise with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ignoring EU and US warnings and saying he will go ahead with the drilling, with a Turkish warship sent to protect an energy vessel.
“Our neighboring country faces internal tensions, while geopolitical developments are emerging in the region. I would like to assure the Greek people that Greece has very strong alliances and also an upgraded geostrategic role. Moreover, the Greek armed forces are very competent. There is no reason for fear and uncertainty,” said Tsipras.
In early May Turkey sent its drillship, the Fatih, to waters well inside Cyprus’ EEZ, about 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) west of Paphos. Despite the potential for Greece and Turkey to clash, NATO – the defense alliance to which both belong – has taken a hands-off approach, as it does with repeated Turkish violations of Greek airspace and waters.