In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said a Turkish ship drilling for energy in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is ruining any chance to reunify the divided island.
Cyprus has sent a number of similar letters to the UN before, all essentially ignored, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – also defying the European Union and United States which back Cyprus’ legitimate government – said he will continue pushing the hunt to find oil and gas.
Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ and the drilling has ramped up worry there could be a conflict in the seas, either accidental or deliberate, while Erdogan keeps thumbing his nose at the international community.
Turkey has occupied the northern third of Cyprus since an unlawful 1974 invasion and decades of diplomacy have failed to bring reunification, including the last round that fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
That happened when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong army in the occupied territory and wanted the right to militarily intervene again when they wanted.
In the June 14 letter seen by Kathimerini Cyprus, Anastasiades called on Guterres to help stop Turkish provocations in the region but more than two weeks later there was no indication the President had even been acknowledged.
Anastasiades repeated his idea for a more decentralized federal government and his proposal for the relaunch of exploratory talks with Akinci which began five years earlier and have essentialy gone nowhere fast.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said if Cyprus tries to stop the drilling there would be a response similar to the past, seen as a veiled threat of military action, and as the Greek newspaper To Vima said Turkey secretly moved 42 German Leopard-2A4 tanks to Kythrea in the occupied area, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the capital of Nicosia.
Cavusoglu said the drilling in Cyprus’ sovereign waters was a response to the legitimate government there not giving Turkish-Cypriots more of a hand in the licensing of the foreign companies also drilling although Anastasiades was willing to share revenues.
“To us, these kinds of threats from the Greek Cypriot administration are meaningless,” the Turkish foreign minister told state TRT Haber television. “They know they cannot take a step against us, and if they dare to do so they will get their response like in the past.”
He said the Republic protested to the EU in a bid to secure decisions against Turkey but it failed “because we made the necessary briefings.”