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Unstoppable, Turkey Presses Cyprus Energy Drilling

Αssociated press

FILE- In this Tuesday, July 9, 2019 photo, a helicopter flies over Turkey's drilling ship, 'Fatih' dispatched towards the eastern Mediterranean, near Cyprus. (Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool)

Continuing to defy the European Union and Greece – the United Nations wants no part of this – Turkey said it will keep on drilling for energy off Cyprus in the divided island's sovereign waters, with no one making a move to stop it.

The EU has issued soft sanctions but it was of being tougher, critics said, fearful that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will unleash more refugees and migrants on Greek islands during an essentially suspended swap deal.

Uncowed by the US' support of the legitimate government – which Turkey doesn't recognize as it also refuses to admit its ships and planes – Erdogan has given the full-speed ahead order for two drilling ships in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)

Despite fears there could be a conflict, accidental or otherwise, with Turkish warships in the region, and ships from the American 6th Fleet nearby, with the US energy giant ExxonMobil among the foreign companies licensed to hunt for energy, Turkey isn't backing and is getting its way.

Indeed, stepping up its defiance, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar toured the northern third of the island that's been occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion, visiting Turkish army bases, the fenced-off city of Famagusta, the Yavuz drillship and warships surrounding the island.

“While discussing these issues everyone should be aware that Turkey is clearly a guarantor state under international law and that Britain, Greece and Turkey have important rights and responsibilities,” he reportedly told TRT in comments translated into Greek.

“We are watching all the developments closely. Everyone should know that we will fully protect both our rights and the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (the Turkish-occupied part of the island,)” he also said.

That was in reference to the energy drilling that has become a catalyst in the collapsed hopes to reunify the island with the last round of talks falling apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove their army and wanted the right to militarily intervene.

“We have an area of 462,000 square kilometers that we call the Blue Homeland. We have rights here established by international agreement... We are determined to protect justice and our rights,” he reportedly said.