Turkey – which has sent energy drillships into Cypriot sovereign waters, again warned it wouldn’t let foreign companies licensed by the legitimate government interfere with their work after France’s Total and Italy’s Eni received new licenses.
They are part of a consortium looking for oil and gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize and as it continues to drill in defiance of Cyprus, Greece, the United States and ignoring soft European Union sanctions.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the move disregards the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the island, while indicating Nicosia’s “failure to understand our determination, despite all our warnings,” reported Kathimerini.
“As repeatedly underlined and shared with the international community, a section of the so-called license area number 7 remains within the Turkish continental shelf, which has been registered with the United Nations,” he said.
“As has been the case so far, Turkey will in no way allow any foreign country, company or vessel to engage in unauthorized hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities within its maritime jurisdiction areas, and will continue to take the necessary measures to protect its rights and interests,” he said.
Cyprus’ behavior, he added, does “not contribute to peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Cyprus is a member of the EU that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005 while refusing to recognize the legitimate government and barring its ships and planes with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thumbing his nose repeatedly at the bloc.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades aid Turkey’s call for Cyprus to suspend its drilling in exchange for Turkey withdrawing its ships is non-negotiable because it would “equate legal actions with illegal ones” and undermine Cyprus’ sovereign rights.
He said Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci’s proposal for a joint Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot committee to oversee drilling activities was dismissed on the same grounds.
He told the AP that he pitched a counter-proposal that included the establishment of an escrow account into which a portion of future gas proceeds earmarked for Turkish Cypriots — roughly proportionate to their population size — would be deposited.
Turkish Cypriots would be able to access those funds even before a peace deal is signed as long as Turkey recognized the borders of Cyprus’ EEZ but all attempts to reach a deal to reunify the island split by an unlawful 1974 invasion that saw Turkey occupy the northern third failed.