With worries about a military conflict over oil and gas off Cyprus, Turkey has sent combat boats, and submarines to accompany its drillshipsin the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) defying warnings from the United States, European Union and Greece.
Turkish Naval Forces elements are accompanying the country’s drilling vessels currently operating off Cyprus, the Turkish National Defense Ministry said, the Turkish web site Ahval reported.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will forge ahead with the drilling as it doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ EEZ where the legitimate government has licensed foreign companies to drill for oil and gas.
There was worry there could be a military conflict with Erdogan refusing to back down although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he’s willing to share any potentially lucrative energy revenues with Turkish-Cypriots unlawfully occupying the northern third since a 1974 invasion. But Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they want their side to take part in the licensing, raising tension as Cyprus, Greece and even Turkey were trying to find a compromise to prevent a clash.
The EU has slapped Turkey with some sanctions that Anastasiades said weren’t tough enough, with the bloc needing cooperation from Erdogan over a number of issues and as he said he would flood Greece with more refugees and immigrants if pushed too far.
Turkey’s Naval Forces Command is providing “full and continuous protection” to the drilling vessels, with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles, watercraft, assault boats and submarines, the country’s National Defense Ministry said in a tweet, including footage of drilling ships.
The US energy giant ExxonMobil is one of the foreign companies licensed to hunt for energy and has reported a major gas find. Turkey has made no attempt to stop it, with ships from the US Sixth Fleet in the region.