NICOSIA - Continuing to defy critics, Turkey has stepped up drilling for energy in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) sending a fourth research vessel into the waters, guarded by warships nearby.
Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said it’s part of his country’s plan to protect the rights of Turkish-Cypriots who have been unlawfully occupying the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.
.“We are currently conducting the fourth drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. We’ll keep drilling until we find([oil,” Donmez said during a speech in Parliament on the ministry’s 2020 budget plans, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported
Donmez also reportedly blamed the legitimate government of Cyprus over ongoing tension surrounding energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean even though Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades offered to share 30 percent of any potentially lucrative oil and gas revenues, which was rejected.
“The initiator of the present problem is the long-standing incompatible attitude of the Greek-Cypriot administration,” Donmez was quoted by Anadolu as saying. Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ nor the United Nations Laws of the Sea.
Before his speech, Donmez reportedly told reporters that work is underway on an undersea electricity cable and natural gas pipeline between Turkey and the occupied part of Cyprus, which had issued an international arrest warrant for the crews of the Turkish ships but never enforced it.
The United States and Greece back Cyprus’ right to license foreign energy companies in its EEZ and the European Union has issued soft sanctions, all ignored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the EU reluctant to get tougher, fearing he will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc on Greek islands.