NICOSIA – Unable to back it up by force, Cyprus’ government said it would proceed with letting foreign companies drill for oil and gas off its coast in waters where Turkish warships are trying to stop and where Turkey says it has sovereignty too.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent in the ships which were able to keep out the Italian energy company Eni but an American company, with ships from the US Sixth Fleet nearby, has been able to begin operations.
While Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he’s willing to share potentially lucrative revenues with Turkish-Cypriots occupying the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion, Erdogan wants them to have a say in the licensing and said otherwise Turkey will drill on its own although it’s been unable to find a partner.
Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the international community and international laws are on the side of Cyprus although Turkey doesn’t recognize laws of the sea nor parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where drilling will take place.
“If the Greek Cypriot side insists on continuing its unilateral hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, security and stability in the area will be continuously in danger. I am saying this openly and clearly…” Erdogan was quoted as saying during a visit to Britain.
Prodromou said the island’s energy plans were in line with international law and had the support of Russia and the US, as well as the European Council, the Cyprus Mail reported.
“What’s certain is that the Republic of Cyprus has international legality on its side and the support of the international community and of course it will continue to exercise its sovereign rights in cooperation with neighbouring countries with which we have agreements, but also with EU member states,” Prodromou said.
While the European Union rebuked Turkey, it also praised Erdogan, trying to strike a delicate balance and avoid irritating him as he warned he would flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants if provoked too much.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes at the same trying Ankara has been trying for 12 years to get into the EU, to which Cyprus already belongs.
The energy issue has been another obstacle to reunification of the island with the last attempt falling apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci saying a Turkish army in the occupied territory would never be removed and they wanted the right to militarily intervene.
“Turkey can really contribute by accepting the parameters set by the UN Secretary-General for the abolition of guarantees and withdrawal of the army, to achieve a solution of the Cyprus problem and truly have conditions without tensions,” said Prodromou although Turkey has ignored all entreaties.