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20 May, 2024
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Three scenarios for Turkish provocations in the East Med

The Turkish drill ship Abdul Hamid Khan is ready to sail to its destination on August 9th

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

Preparations are done and the Turkish drilling rig Abdul Hamid Khan is ready to sail to its destination, according to informed sources, but the location is yet to be announced.  The rig was observed to have returned to its place of anchorage on Tuesday after having been several days off the port of Tasukou (opposite the occupied Karpasia).

The movements of the rig are raising tensions in the region and, with the exception of the areas near Cyprus, a gradual accumulation of naval forces is already being observed in the form of conducting exercises. Whether there will be a peak similar to that of 2020 will depend on the instructions given to Abdul Hamid Khan about the area in which he will anchor in order to carry out his illegal activities.

Block 6 of the Cypriot EEZ appears to be the top choice of the Abdul Hamid Khan drilling rig

In Nicosia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to have a package of measures ready in case the Turkish drilling rig illegally enters areas of the Cypriot EEZ. In Greece, beyond the diplomatic field, there is an intense movement at sea with an increased readiness to react in the event that the drilling rig enters areas of Greek interests.

Officially, Ankara has not divulged the final destination of Abdul Hamid Khan. It is even said that the instructions will be given by the president of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan himself on August 9, the date of the drilling rig's voyage to an area in the eastern Mediterranean. However, in Cyprus and Greece, there seem to be some suggestions as to the possible locations the Turkish drilling rig plans to visit, scenarios on which the countermeasures that seem to have been prepared by the two countries are based. Two of the three scenarios concern the Republic of Cyprus and areas west of Paphos and in the occupied part. The third scenario is essentially a repetition of the scenario that Turkey tried to set up in 2020 on the side of Kastellorizos.

The case of the Turkish drilling rig ending up in an area under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus is considered the most likely, taking into account that the Republic of Cyprus will only be able to respond diplomatically  Both in Nicosia and in Athens, the estimates seem to converge that the Turkish drilling rig will move to areas where illegal research or other activities were previously carried out. With this rationale, block 6 of the EEZ appears first on the list, a part which (northern) Turkey illegally claims as part of its continental shelf. Illegal explorations have been carried out in this area in the past, while other activities have also been noted by the rest of Turkey's drilling rigs. This particular area is a long way from where he is currently working,

A second potential area of ​​Turkish provocation is occupied Karpasia or some other point between occupied Famagusta and the eastern parts of the Cypriot EEZ. In Karpasia, Turkey carried out illegal explorations in 2018 and 2019, while something similar has been done in the other occupied areas south and east of Cyprus. In this regard, we should also recall the episode that occurred in 2018 with the harassment of the Italian ENI drilling rig, by Turkish warships, which was heading for planned work in block 3 of the EEZ.

The third scenario envisages a repeat of the situation created by the departure of the Turkish research vessel Oruch Reis, which brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of a heated episode. In such a case, the Turkish drilling rig appears to be moving in the area of ​​the so-called Turko-Libyan confluence at the height of Kastelorozo, Karpathos, Rhodes and Crete. A scenario that will once again cause naval forces in the region to be on the alert with all that this may entail. The Greek side has already declared in all directions that it will not act as in the case of Oruch Reis and that it will not tolerate any questioning of Greek sovereignty and sovereign rights. A worst-case scenario. Increased activity of naval and air units of the Greek armed forces is already recorded in the area in question. Until August 5, Greece has reserved areas south of Crete on behalf of the Israeli navy. Exercises that may also take place with the participation of Greek warships.

The diplomatic arsenal of Athens and Nicosia

In addition to the mobility of naval forces on the side of Greece, Athens and Nicosia appear prepared to react in the diplomatic field as well. During the recent visit of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to Nicosia, he seems to have locked down the package of measures between the two countries in case Turkey repeats the provocations. The choices that have been made in the diplomatic field put more emphasis on the scenarios of Turkish provocation in Cyprus. Given the impossibility of military pressure on the part of the Republic of Cyprus, the only option is diplomacy. In this spirit, the two countries seem to have reached a package of measures with an emphasis on the internationalization of Turkish challenges. As diplomatic sources report to "K", recourse to the UN Security Council tops the list of agreed measures. The second field in which activity will be developed is the EU by exerting pressure to take measures against Turkey. An issue that in the past had caused quite a few discussions both about the scope of the measures and their effectiveness. Here, a reminder should also be made of earlier decisions of the European Council that remain in force. Diplomatic measures complement legal ones that have been processed and are directed against persons or corporate entities. 

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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