Turkey Offers Cyprus Energy Drilling Carrot or Stick

Αssociated Press

FILE - Turkey's 230-meter (750-foot) drillship 'Yavuz' crosses the Marmara Sea on its way to the Mediterranean, from the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Alternating between talking tough and speaking softly, Turkey said it will continue to drill for energy in Cyprus’ sovereign waters but said it would also prefer to negotiate a peaceful settlement - as long as it gets its way.

Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said Turkey wants hydrocarbon resources around the island of Cyprus not to be a matter of conflict at the same time it has sent two ships there, plans to send two more and has them guarded by warships.

Donmez's remarks came during a visit to the northern third of the island that’s been unlawfully occupied by Turkey since a 1974 invasion, guarded by a 35,000-strong army that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said will never be removed.

"We have repeatedly stated that we will side with the rights and interest of our fellow citizens living in the TRNC, (the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus)” as Turkey refers to the occupied territory no other country in the world recognizes.

We have already stated that we do not accept the unilateral steps of the Greek Cypriot administration and it seeing itself as the sole owner and ruler of the island," the minister noted, said the pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah.

Donmez also pointed to Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Ak?nc?'s proposal presented through the United Nations earlier last month, calling for the joint use of Cypriot resources and cooperation between the two sides in the search for gas off the island.

That was rejected by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades but Donmez said he hoped that would change.  "The proposal made last month was extremely appropriate. We support the evaluation of natural resources through a joint committee," he said.

If not, Turkey said it plans to keep on drilling, defying Cyprus, Greece, the United States and soft sanctions from the European Union that haven’t deterred Erdogan from his ongoing plans.