Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said that another energy research vessel, the Yavuz, will start drilling almost immediately in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in continued defiance of the European Union and United States demands to stop.
The office of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said it was a “serious escalation” although Turkey has been upping provocations all year with no one trying to stop it, including the United Nations which has steered clear of the dispute.
The drilling will be done in the area Morphou-1, which falls within Block 7 of Cyprus’ EEZ, where the government has already signed agreements with French Total and Italian ENI for offshore hydrocarbon exploration, said Kathimerini in a report.
Donmez’ statement came as Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived in Cyprus ahead of an Oct. 14 meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council. The EU has issued soft sanctions that Turkey has ignored.
The move also came only two days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington has made it clear to Turkey that “illegal drilling is unacceptable,” but has done nothing other than issue statements and press releases backing Cyprus' right to drill.
“We want to make sure that rules govern international exploration in the Mediterranean Sea’s energy resources and that no country can hold Europe hostage,” Pompeo said during a visit to Athens.
“We have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable, and we’ll continue to take diplomatic actions to make sure that we do, as we do always, ensure that lawful activity takes place,” he also added.
The drilling has undercut any hopes for now of restarting unification talks that collapsed in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish President Recep Tayyip 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 occupied since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion.