Cyprus Styles Turkey ‘Pirate State’ of East Mediterranean for Oil and Gas Drilling Plans
The tensions with Turkey over the offshore oil and gas deposits around Cyrpus come against the backdrop of the push by Cyprus, Greece, and Israel to go ahead with the EastMed pipeline.
EU member state Cyprus has called Turkey a “pirate state” because Ankara’s plans to drill for oil and natural gas in the waters around the island claimed by the latter as belonging to the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
As early as the summer of 2019, there were unconfirmed reports that Turkey may already be carrying out “successful” drilling in a huge natural gas deposit near Cyrpus.
The dispute over the oil and natural gas field near Cyprus has worsened the relations between the European Union and Turkey.
Turkey insists it is defending the resource rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway Turkish-populated part of the island whose independence has been recognized by Ankara only.
The Republic of Cyprus has been supported by the European Union, which has threatened sanctions against Turkey, and is closely allied with fellow EU member state Greece as well as with Israel.
In early January 2020, representatives of Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed in Athens an agreement for the construction of the so called EastMed pipeline, which is supposed to transport natural gas extracted by the three countries from Eastern Mediterranean deposits to the continent EU member states, an arrangement likely running counter to Turkey’s designs for the resources found around Cyprus. The EastMed pipeline has been enjoying diplomatic support from the United States.
“Turkey is turning into a pirate state in the eastern Mediterranean,” the Presidency of Cyprus said in a statement on Sunday, after Ankara announced new plans to drill for oil and gas in the divided island’s maritime zone.
“Turkey insists on going down the path of international illegality it has chosen,” it said, as cited by AFP and France24.
“[Ankara has been] repeatedly ignoring calls by the international community, especially the European Union, to terminate its illegal activities,” the Presidency of Cyprus added.
Last Thursday, Turkish President Recep Erdogan vowed Turkey would start gas exploration “as soon as possible”, and the following day, the Turkish government announced that the drillship Yavuz would return to waters off Cyprus for drilling activities.
According to the Cypriot Presidency, Turkey is targeting a Cypriot maritime zone section known as Block 8, licensed by Cyprus to energy giants Total of France and Italy’s Eni.
The island of Cyprus has been divided between EU member Republic of Cyprus, Greek-populated, and the Turkish-populated third of the island claiming independence under the name of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has been under Turkish military control since 1974.
Turkey has insisted that Turkish Cypriots have rights to the island’s offshore resources, and that its drilling activities fall within its continental shelf.
Also on Sunday, the Turkish government responded by accusing the EU of prejudice and “double standards.”
“The EU has remained silent since 2003 to the usurping of our country’s and the Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the eastern Mediterranean,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement, as cited by DW.
“The European Union must firstly end these policies under the guise of union solidarity, which are far from a reality, prejudiced and show double standards,” he added.
(Banner image: May by Lobby for Cyprus. In white are exploration blocks licensed by the Republic of Cyrpus, and in red are exploration blocks licensed by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.)