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Unchecked, Defiant Turkey Resuming Energy Drilling Off Cyprus

Αssociated Press

An offshore drilling rig is seen in the waters off Cyprus coastal city of Limassol as a sailboat sails in the foreground on Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Ignoring soft European Union sanctions, Turkey is pressing ahead with renewed drilling for oil and gas in Cyprus' sovereign waters, with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades reversing his vow not to discuss reunification while that's going on.

Also defying international law it doesn't recognize unless invoking it as an advantage, Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said the Yavuz energy research vessel would operate again in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)

“We continue our work in the Mediterranean. Nobody should think that we stopped, that we took a break,” he said, while also referring to the Oruc Reis and Barbaros seismic vessels, which “continue their work in various parts of the Mediterranean.”

The Oruc Reis continues to be off the Greek island of Kastellorizo after Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis pulled back his insistence on EU sanctions to give diplomacy a chance, which instantly failed.

A navigational warning (NAVTEX) for other vessels to stay out of waters where the Barbors will operate was extended to February 2021 and for the Oruc Reis until Nov. 23, said Kathimerini.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, apparently emboldened by the EU to refuse to consider further sanctions until year's end to let Turkey and Greece try to reach a resolution over seas boundaries, said he would go to Cyprus on Nov. 15 to have a picnic at the abandoned Varosha resort.

He reopened part of the beach front there just ahead of elections to give an edge to his preferred candidate to be the Turkish-Cypriot leader on the occupied northern third, Ersin Tatar, who ousted incumbent Mustafa Akinci.

Tatar, who had been the self-declared premier of the occupied territory no other country in the world other than Turkey recognizes, said he will follow Erdogan's hard line path and wants two states on the island, which would isolate his side.

Opening the beach there was also in violation of United Nations resolutions, Erdogan showing he doesn't care one whit about the international community or international law, forging ahead with his own agenda.

Varosha had been fenced off and abandoned since its some 40,000 Greek-Cypriot residents fled to safety during the unlawful Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and was accessible only to the Turkish military or politicians.

Tatar and Anastasiades had met informally as a courtesy after the elections on the Turkish-Cypriot side and the Cypriot President said he was again willing to talk reunification despite ongoing provocations and Tatar saying he doesn't want a federal system that could bring a kind of reunification.

The last round of negotiations fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Akinci and Erdogan said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side and wanted the right of further military intervention when they wanted.