Stepping up the intensity of its press releases denouncing Turkey for drilling for oil and gas in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) the European Union said it had “grave concern,” a higher expression of worry than just “Concern,” or “Deep Concern.”
Powerless to do anything, the EU is left to utter support for Cyprus while trying to also be delicate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan so he won’t flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants.
Under a largely-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU, Turkey was supposed to take back those not deemed eligible for asylum, who had gone to Greece from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
“Turkey’s declared intention to illegally conduct a new drilling operation northeast of Cyprus is of grave concern,” the EU foreign policy branch said in a statement.
“This second planned drilling operation, two months after the start of the ongoing drilling operations west of Cyprus, is a further unacceptable escalation which violates the sovereignty of Cyprus,” it added.
Greece’s former Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras had said sanctions should be considered against Turkey, which has been trying to join the EU for 14 years – with the backing of Greece and Cyprus, which already is a member.
Cypriot issued international arrest warrants against the crew of a Turkish drillship operating in the island’s sovereign waters near where foreign companies, including the US energy giant ExxonMobil has been licensed and reported a major gas find.
But the arrest warrants weren’t enforced after Erdogan dared Cyprus to try to take the crew of the Turkish ship into custody, and while the EU and the US have backed the legitimate government’s right to license companies to drill that’s as far as it’s gone so far.
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.
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.