Cyprus, Greece, Egypt Tell Turkey to Back Off Cyprus Drilling

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a trilateral Greece, Cyprus and Egypt summit on Tuesday in Cairo. (Photo by PM Press Office/Dimitris Papamitsos via Eurokinissi)

Teaming up to protect their energy plans, Cyprus, Greece and Egypt said Turkey – which has already ignored them and everyone else – should “end its provocative actions” in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, including exploring for oil in Cyprus’ territorial waters, which they called “a breach of international law”.

That came the same time Turkey said it sent a drilling ship to the area where the legitimate government of Cyprus has licensed foreign companies, including America’s ExxonMobil, to drill for oil and gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)

“The Heads of State and Government expressed their grave concern over the current escalation within the maritime areas of the eastern part of the Mediterranean, condemning the continuing Turkish actions in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus and its territorial waters, in violation of international law,” said the tripartite statement, the news agency Reuters reported.

Their joint statement was released after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, saying they were anxious over “new attempts to conduct illegal exploration” in Cyprus’ EEZ.

In this photo provided by Egypt’s presidency media office, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, gives a press conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, left, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. (Egyptian Presidency Media office via AP)

Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ nor the government, and bars its ships and plans at the same time it’s been trying to join the European Union since 2005, most recently dashed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s provocative behavior toward the island, a member.

Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion and still keeps a 35,000-strong standing army there which it refuses to remove, which caused the collapse of the last round of reunification talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

In July, Greece accused Turkey of undermining security in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling for oil and gas around Cyprus. The two countries, along with the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which still has military bases there, are guarantors of security for the island.

Turkey, which also rejected calls by the United States to stop drilling and has ignored soft EU sanctions, said the bloc – which it wants to join – can’t be fair over the question, the drilling now undermining any hopes for restarting the reunity talks.

In January, Eastern Mediterranean countries meeting in Cairo, including Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, agreed to set up a forum to create a regional gas market, cut infrastructure costs and offer competitive prices, part of efforts to transform the region into a major market energy hub.