Defiant Turkey Keeps Drilling for Energy off Cyprus

Turkey's 230-meter (750-foot) drillship 'Yavuz'. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Disdaining the European Union and the United States, Turkey is still hunting for oil and gas in Cypriot sovereign waters, the research vessel Fatih starting operations off the northwestern coast, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said.

The EU has issued soft sanctions so far and leaders of the 28 countries through the European Council said they would think about getting tougher but reluctant to do so, fearful that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make good on his plans to flood the bloc with millions more refugees and migrants who had gone there as a jumping-off point on the way to Europe.

Most of those go through already overwhelmed Greek islands and Erdogan is using that threat to keep the EU at bay while his ships drill in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as the EU keeps calling for him to stop, which he ignores.

Turkey has been trying since 2005 to join the EU but the bid is faltering in the wake of Erdogan purging civil society, the military and jailing journalists by the handful in the wake of a failed July 2016 coup attempt against him as he narrowly missed assassination.

Turkey does not recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ, claiming the waters for itself, nor does it accept the United Nations Laws of the Seas. The UN hasn’t responded to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ repeated pleas for help.

The energy dilemma has also stopped in its tracks any hopes of reopening reunification talks tht fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the northern third of the island that’s been occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

They also rejected Anastasiades’ offer to share 30 percent of any potentially lucrative revenues with Turkish-Cypriots, demanding instead a role in the licensing of foreign energ y companies, two of which – France’s Total and Italy’s Eni – said they would pull out, feaful of Turkish warships and saying they didn’t want to the cause of a shooting conflict.

Another Turkish drillship, Yavuz, is off the west coast of Cyprus.

That cameas Greece – with along with Turkey and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still has military bases on the island – said the 36th anniversary of Turkey recognizing its self-declared Republic there went against international laws.

“Today’s sad anniversary of the declaration of ‘independence’ of the pseudo-state in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus reminds the international community the continuing, for 36 years, gross violation of the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and international law,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Republic of Cyprus today faces new challenges and violations of its sovereignty and its sovereign rights by the occupying power. Cyprus, a member-state of the United Nations and the EU, is not alone in addressing these challenges,” the ministry continued.

“Turkey must realize that escalation of illegal activities and provocations can only lead to a corresponding escalation and international reaction. International law exists to be applied. It must be implemented by everyone in full and not selectively,” it added in another press release of the type Erdogan ignores.

“Our steadfast national goal is to restore international legality on the island, end the occupation, abolish the completely anachronistic status of guarantees and invasive rights, achieve a mutually acceptable, viable and operational solution in Cyprus, based on United Nations Resolutions,” the Greek ministry said as the UN has done nothing about it.

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