ISTANBUL: Turkey’s foreign ministry said on July 10 it rejected statements by Greek and European Union officials that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate and said the EU could not be an impartial mediator on the Cyprus problem.
“As she [Turkey] protects its own continental shelf rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will continue to defend Turkish Cypriots’ rights and interests around the Island, insofar as the Greek Cypriots do not involve Turkish Cypriots in the decision-making mechanisms, including the revenue sharing on hydrocarbon resources, and guarantee their rights,” the foreign ministry said.
Recalling the activities of Turkey’s drilling ship Fatih, which “has begun its activities in last May, in the west of the Island of Cyprus, where our Government has granted licenses to the Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012 within our continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean notified to United Nations,” the ministry said country’s second drilling ship Yavuz has been deployed in the south of the Karpas peninsula.
The ministry said Yavuz “will operate on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots within the license areas granted by Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to the Turkish Petroleum in 2011.”
Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels- Fatih and most recently Yavuz- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched offshore drilling operations this May in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island of Cyprus.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
“In this context, we fully support the recent statements of the Turkish Cypriot Authorities who granted licenses to Turkish petroleum in 2001 which indeed constitute the legal and legitimate basis of the operations of our drilling ship Yavuz,” the ministry said.
“We find it quite odd the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ statement in an interview regarding Turkey’s off-shore activities in the Eastern Mediterranean which are being carried out in compliance with international law,” the ministry said.
“In fact, the title ‘spoiled child of Europe’ belongs to Greece. And the hellion of Europe is the Greek Cypriot Administration, which became a member of the EU against international law and thus destabilized the Eastern Mediterranean together with Greece for years,” it added.
The ministry said being a member of the EU and “allegedly representing the entire Island” does not give the Greek Cypriot Administration the right to usurp the legitimate rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots.”
Turkey’s foreign minister also reiterated on July 10 that Turkey is determined to protect Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Either the wealth is fairly shared, a common solution is found, or Turkey will continue to defend Turkish Cypriots’ rights,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a news conference in the capital Ankara.
Underlining that Turkey will keep on its drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Çavuşoğlu said: “No country or international institution has the right to comment on this issue.”
US expresses ‘concern’
Meanwhile, the U.S. on July 9 voiced concern over Turkey’s gas exploration activities in the Mediterranean Sea, calling on the Turkish government to halt the activities.
“The United States remains deeply concerned by Turkey’s repeated attempts to conduct drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus and its most recent dispatch of the drillship Yavuz off the Karpas Peninsula,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “This provocative step raises tensions in the region.”
“We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” Ortagus said.
The Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister on July 9 criticized the EU’s reaction to the exploration and research activities by Turkey’s drill ships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ersin Tatar said in a written statement that from the beginning the EU has been taking a pro-Greek stance, leading the Cyprus issue into an even worse stalemate.
On July 7 outgoing EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said, “Turkey’s declared intention to illegally conduct a new drilling operation northeast of Cyprus is of grave concern,” adding that the second planned drilling operation is a “further unacceptable escalation which violates the sovereignty of Cyprus.” __Hurriyet