Nicosia and Athens are calling on Turkey to back off following Ankara’s decision to send more ships off the southern coast of Cyprus.
In a Tweet on Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said drilling ships Yavuz and Fatih were being escorted continuously by frigates, submarines, assault boats, warships, unmanned drones, and naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean.
Observers and political pundits pointed out that Turkey’s move marked the first time that both Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus would be looking for hydrocarbons in the same exploration block. The coordinates, about 50 miles southwest of the port of Limassol, fall within an oil and gas exploration block which Cyprus has already licensed to companies Eni and Total.
The two countries have competing claims in the eastern Mediterranean, with Nicosia rejecting Ankara's assertions describing them as 'inconsistent with international law'
The two countries have competing claims in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey says it is protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the island while also having cited in the past its role in the region.
Ankara also says some of the areas where Cyprus is exploring are either on its own continental shelf or within zones where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights with Greek Cypriots over any gas finds.
Nicosia rejects the claim, saying that assertion is not only inconsistent with international law, but also arguing that Turkey would not accept any international dispute settlement mechanism where its claims could be put to the test.
Turkey has already drilled two wells in waters to the east and west of the island, triggering strong protests from Nicosia and the European Union.
"It is yet another proof of the utterly provocative and aggressive behaviour of Ankara, which has chosen to speedily and irreversibly depart from international legality, thus putting security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean at risk," Nicosia said in a statement.
Another violation in a series of violations
The Greek foreign ministry also issued a statement pointing out that Turkey’s move was just “another violation in a series of violations against the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and its sovereign rights, international law, and European Acquis.”
A statement from the European Commission also appeared to condemn Turkey’s actions.
“Turkey needs to refrain from such actions and respect the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with international law within its Exclusive Economic Zone,” the Commission said.
According to a press release by the Commission, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said they “deplored” Turkey’s further drilling activities off the southern coast of Cyprus. The two officials reportedly discussed the possibility of adopting targeted measures against Ankara.
Doğu Akdeniz’de FATİH ve YAVUZ sondaj platformlarımıza, Deniz Kuvvetlerimize ait TCG ORUÇREİS ve TCG GAZİANTEP fırkateynlerimiz, denizaltılarımız, hücumbotlarımız, korvetlerimiz, İHA’larımız ve Deniz Karakol uçaklarımız refakat görevine kesintisiz devam ediyor.#MSB #TSK pic.twitter.com/5BgneNU34n— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) October 4, 2019