NICOSIA – Undeterred by soft European Union sanctions and the United Nations ignoring Cyprus’ constant pleas to intervene, Turkey plans to continue drilling for oil and gas in the island’s waters.
Turkey’s Deputy President Fuat Oktay said his country will forge ahead with the energy hunt in the East Mediterranean, claiming parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the island where Turkey unlawfully invaded in 1974 and seized the northern third.
That territory is occupied mostly by Turkish-Cypriots whose self-declared government, along with Turkey, rejected an offer by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to share 30 percent of potentially lucrative energy revenues.
Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots want a hand in licensing foreign companies and the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent research vessels and warships off the island to protect them.
“We are not afraid of anyone. Those who seek an adventure in the eastern Mediterranean will get an answer,” Oktay said during a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the Turkish-Cypriot declaration of independence for a self-declared republic no other country in the world apart from Turkey accepts.
Oktay’s remarks came after the Cypriot government said that ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum would resume drilling in an area southwest of Cyprus where they’re licensed to prospect for oil and gas.
A consortium made up of energy companies Total of France and Italian Eni will also resume drilling off Cyprus’ southern coast in the first half of next year although Turkish warships have scared off foreign companies before.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus – a member of the EU that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005 and bars its ships and planes. Turkey also said that a big part of the EEZ falls under its jurisdiction.
Earlier in November, the French frigate Auvergne docked in Cyprus to show, according to the ship’s Captain Paul Merveilleux de Vignaux, “respect of international law and especially freedom of navigation matters” to France.
He said that the frigate’s deployment in the region “underlines how important France considers this part of the Mediterranean sea,” as well as the country’s “willingness to contribute to the stabilization of this strategic area.”
France is also keen to make its presence felt to send signals to Turkey not to interfere with offshore drilling.
In February 2018, Turkish warships prevented a drill ship leased by Eni from conducting exploratory drilling in waters southeast of Cyprus, warning it would be fired on unless departing, which it did.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)