Turks spoil Cypriot gas triumph
The EU has called on Turkey to reduce its aggression towards the Republic of Cyprus and accused its navy obstructing an Italian gas exploration vessel, according to Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper.
As eastern Mediterranean countries are scrambling to discover gas reserves, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last week claimed an agreement for an exclusive economic zone between Cyprus and Egypt was “null and void”, saying it contravened the “inalienable rights” of Turkish Cypriots to benefit from the divided island’s resources.
The dispute takes place against the backdrop of increasing bilateral tension between Athens along with the wider EU and Ankara.
Tension increased this week after a decision by a Greek court on Monday against the extradition of eight Turkish armed forces personnel wanted in connection with the bungled July 15, 2016, coup attempt.
Turkey has issued a second extradition request, although the asylum-seeking personnel would be given bail, Kathimerini reported.
In December, Turkish opposition leaders called for action to seize what they said were islands “occupied” by Greece in the Aegean Sea. Greece’s defence minister was prevented from laying a wreath on uninhabited rocky atolls by Turkish ships last year.
Turkey escorted Eni’s drilling ship away from sensitive waters, leading the Greek Cypriot government to claim the act violated international law because the forced move constituted military activity in the disputed area.
“We are keeping calm in order to avoid any crisis and taking all diplomatic steps necessary so that finally Cyprus’ sovereign rights can be respected,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told the media. “We are handling the situation by trying to avoid anything that could worsen the situation without ignoring the fact that Turkey’s actions are in breach of international law.”
The Republic of Northern Cyprus, on the northern third of the divided island, is only recognised by Turkey.
Turkey has declared that it will search for gas despite the exclusive deal between Cyprus and Egypt.
Cyprus reported at the weekend that the Turkish military had obstructed the Italian vessel from searching for gas reserves.
“Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to neighbourly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state,” said a European Commission spokeswoman.
“The EU stresses the need to respect the sovereignty of member states over their territorial sea and airspace,” she said, referring to regular Turkish intrusions into Greek territorial waters and airspace.
The Greek foreign ministry called on Turkey to “desist from further unlawful actions and comply with its obligations stemming from international law”.
Eni and Total made a promising gas discovery in Cypriot waters last week that suggests they found similar reserves to those found at Egypt’s Zohr gas field, where Eni found the largest gas deposit in the Mediterranean.
Nicosia’s green line. Picture credit: Flickr