Turkey Will Start Drilling Off Cyprus

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has near-dictatorial powers

Unchecked by the international community, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said  that Turkey, which has a research vessel and warship parked in Cypriot waters, will set up a drilling platform to look for oil and gas, and demanded a share in any hydrocarbon discoveries that are made,

Erdogan, who has ignored feeble complaints from the European Union that Turkey wants to join, said he was protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots by invading Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

Speaking during an event in Ankara marking the 60th anniversary of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation, Erdogan said that the Barbaros, the Turkish vessel that has been carrying out seismic explorations for oil and gas inside Cyprus’s maritime zone since mid-October, will remain there until a distribution deal is reached with the Cypriot government.

“Our research vessel continues its drilling activities. We will continue to be there as long as the Greek-Cypriot administration and Greece continue to ignore our warnings on the issue,” Erdogan said. “Turkey will never stay out of developments in Cyprus,” he added.

Cyprus’s Parliament Speaker Yiannakis Omirou called Erdogan’s comments as “provocative, predatory and marauding” adding that the government should escalate its reaction but there was no immediate word from Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades who, after Turkey sent in the ships, broke off talks to reunify the island divided since an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974.

Erdogan’s comments came days after a joint meeting in Athens of Turkish and Greek officials where Ankara pledged to work toward resolving the dilemma, a promise set aside almost immediately.

Despite the Turkish provocations, which have drawn tepid press announcements from Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu (photo) as the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) convened in Thessaloniki.

The United States, while saying it respected all sides, has urged Cyprus to give Turkey a share of any energy discoveries and to restart reunification talks without the Turks withdrawing their vessels. NATO has done nothing, while the United Nations has essentially stayed out of it despite having a presence on the island.