Turkey Will Keep Drilling Until Cyprus Agrees to Shared Licensing

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 9, 2019 file photo, a Turkish Navy warship patrols near Turkey's drilling ship ' Fatih ' that is making its way towards the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus. Turkish officials say the drillships Fatih and Yavuz will drill for gas, which has prompted protests from Cyprus. (Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool)

Turkey said drilling for energy in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will go on until the legitimate government gives in and consents to letting Turkish-Cypriots take part in the hunt for oil and gas.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said unless Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades accepts the proposal from Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to let his side participate in the licensing of foreign companies that the drilling won’t stop.

Turkey has ignored demands from the United States to stop the drilling, as well as from the European Union which has put out press releases of various stages of concern but has backed off even mild sanctions.

Bloc leaders are wary that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, if provoked too much, could unleash more refugees and migrants on Greek islands as a three-year-old swap deal has largely been suspended.

Cavusoglu said Akinci’s idea that both sides of the divided island cooperate in exploration and exploitation of gas could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean as tension has been ratcheting up, along with fears of a military conflict.

Anastasiades had already agreed to let Turkish-Cypriots who’ve occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion share in any potentially lucrative revenues but Erdogan and Akinci want them to have a hand in the licensing as well.

Turkey has two drill ships in Cyprus’ EEZ, part of which it doesn’t recognize, and claims to have rights to the waters under international laws it otherwise doesn’t respect but has cited in this case.

Cyprus issued international arrest warrants for the crew of the first Turkish ship to begin drilling but didn’t enforce them and the United Nations has stayed out of the fray, ignoring Anastasiades’ pleas to get involved.

WE OWN THE SEAS

The EU is discussing curbing contacts and funds for Turkey in response but has sat on its hands for now and done nothing but talk as Erdogan has strengthened his hand in an apparent push to make the bloc and Cyprus bend to his will.

In an article for the Cyprus Post Cavusoglu said until Greek-Cypriots adopt the proposals set out by Akinci that Turkey would continue operations in areas where Turkish-Cypriot authorities have licensed it to work, “with determination and without change.”

Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus – a member of the EU that Turkey wants to join while barring Cypriot ships and planes –  is the only country which recognizes the breakaway state in the north of the island.

Cyprus said Turkey’s drilling operations are contrary to international law and that decisions on hydrocarbons are its sovereign right, the news agency Reuters noted in a report on the growing dilemma remaining unsolved.

Turkey said Greek-Cypriot authorities cannot make agreements about maritime economic zones or energy exploration on behalf of the whole island while claiming that the seas around Cyprus lie on its own continental shelf.

Erdogan said the EU hadn’t helped solve the Cypriot question that has been confounding diplomats for decades, with the last round of reunification talks collapsing in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Akinci said a Turkish army in the occupied area would never leave and demanded the right of further military intervention.

“In the face of all of these developments, we can’t view positively those who speak, make a noise here,” broadcaster Haberturk quoted him as saying.

“Now the EU comes forward and says what? It will impose sanctions. Do whatever your sanction is. Sorry, you have not defended the rights of Turks in northern Cyprus,” he said. “You have not followed through on your promises.”