Likely to escalate tension even more, a second Turkish energy research vessel will begin drilling for oil and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean within a week, Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on July 7, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.
Turkey already has one ship in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) despite protests from the legitimate government on the island where Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion, backed by a 35,000-strong army.
The United States and European Union have backed Cyprus’ right to license foreign companies in the seas, including France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and the American energy giant ExxonMobil which has reported a major gas find.
There are worries what Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called an invasion of the island’s waters by Turkey could lead to a conflict. Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still has military bases there, are guarantors of security.
In June, EU leaders warned Turkey to back off or face the possibility of sanctions but were ignored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan without repercussions as he had warned he otherwise would flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants.
Turkey has been overrun by people fleeing countries in the Middle East and elsewhere trying to get away from war and strife and economic problems and has let human traffickers operate during an essentially suspended swap deal with the EU.
Cyprus issued arrest warrants for the crew of the first ship in June but didn’t carry them out as Erdogan continued to thumb his nose at Anastasiades, the EU and the international community and so far has gotten away with it.
The second drilling ship, Yavuz, is currently at the port of Mersin doing final tests and taking on supplies, said Donmez, according to Anadolu, as reported by the news agency Reuters as well.
Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes while trying for 14 years to get into the EU – Cyprus is a member – also doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ and said it has the right to drill where it wants.
“God willing, within a week Yavuz will begin drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Carpasia (peninsula), in the area where we have got a license from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” said Donmez.
He was using the name of the occupied territory that only Turkey recognizes in the world with the region otherwise called a breakaway state. Attempts to reunify the island have failed for decades.
The last round of negotiations was two years ago and fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they wouldn’t remove their army and wanted the right to militarily intervene again.
The with possibility growing of lucrative energy revenues, Anastasiades offered to share them with Turkish-Cypriots whose economy has floundered for years but Erdogan and Akinci said they also want the right for those living in the occupied territory to have a hand in the licensing of the foreign companies and more power.