Challenging Turkey, Cyprus Reserves Seas for Navy Maneuvers

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

As Turkey has positioned a ship in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to drill for oil and gas, the legitimate government issued a NAVTEX advising vessels that parts of the seas there were being reserved for naval exercises.

The NAVTEX covers blocks 2 and 3 in the EEZ for the period July 1-10, a response to Turkey earlier also conducting naval games in the waters that are being contested by the two countries, drawing in the United States and the European Union on Cyprus’ side.

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez and other officials said the Cypriot NAVTEX is in the same area where a second Turkish drillship, the Yavuz, is expected to anchor to begin exploring for hydrocarbons, Cyprus apparently attempting a blocking tactic.

Tension already had been soaring after Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was trying to carry to carry out a second invasion – through drilling and energy – referring to Turkey occupying the northern third of the island in an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Block 3 is also where a natural gas prospect named Squid is located, and where Turkey had prevented exploratory drilling by Italian firm Eni in February 2018, scaring off the Italians with a warship.
With fears high there could be a clash and conflict in the seas, with Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom guarantors of security for the island, Cyprus’ government is pushing participation in drilling by the French company Total in blocks that have already been licensed to Italy’s Eni, as well as a consortium of the Italian company and South Korea’s KOGAS, said Kathimerini.

Turkish provocations were criticized by Greece’s major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis who is expected to take power in July 7 snap elections and oust Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.

Mitsotakis said the EU should consider sanctions if Turkey persists in drilling in Cypriot waters but the bloc’s leaders have limited themselves to press release statements of support for Cyprus, not wanting to antagonize Erdogan into letting human traffickers send more refugees and migrants from the Middle East to Greek islands.

Turkey also said it will resettle the closed-off ghost town of Varosha in the occupied area, leading Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to send a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, calling for the creation of a bicommunal committee that will draft proposals to reconstruct the town abandoned after the invasion.