Erdogan Ups Tough Talk Over Turkish Drilling Off Cyprus

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to reporters before leaving for Bosnia, in Istanbul, Monday, July 8, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Keeping up defiance of  Greece, the United States and European Union, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan there won’t be peace on Cyprus – where Turkey is drilling offshore for energy – unless Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots get their way.

The Turkish-Cypriot side isn’t satisfied with pledges from Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades that potentially lucrative revenues would be shared with them and want to take part in the licensing of foreign companies licensed to hunt for oil and gas.

Erdogan said there won’t be stability in the Eastern Mediterranean unless the interests of Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots who have been unlawfully occupying the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion are protected, said Kathimerini.

Speaking at the 11th Ambassadors’ Conference in Ankara, Erdogan reportedly said the “stability of the Eastern Mediterranean is significant for the security of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.”

He added: “Stability in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean can only be achieved if care is given to the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” referring to what Turkey calls the occupied area as the only country in the world which recognizes it.

A day earlier at the same conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu showed off a map indicating what Turkey claimed as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) that goes from Rhodes to the western coast of Cyprus.

Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ and the drilling there in areas near where Cyprus licensed foreign companies, including the US’ ExxonMobil to look fore energy, has drawn EU sanctions and a rebuke from the US, to no avail.

The Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah reported that the Yavuz drillship has begun operating off the coast of Cyprus, just south of the Karpasia Peninsula just after Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez’s visit to the occupied territory of the island.

A second Turkish drillship, the Fatih, is proceeding with its surveying work west of the Akamas Peninsula in western Cyprus, the paper said, with reports there’s a better chance of finding gas deposits there as energy becomes a volatile catalyst threatening to upend reunification hopes.

Besides the energy research vessels, Turkey has warships in the region to protect them, increasing fears there could be a military conflict, accidental or otherwise and as the EU, wary of Erdogan sending more refugees and migrants to Greek islands, hasn’t toughened sanctions so far.

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