Turkey Starts Offshore Exploration – Heading For Confrontation With Cyprus?

Ankara, 21 Sept 2011: Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc confirmed yesterday that a Norwegian survey ship is on its way to Turkey to start exploration of potential oil and gas fields in the region.

The minister added that his country’s announcement to counter a Greek-Cypriot drilling project was “no bluff”. The move comes a day after the US company Noble Energy Inc. has begun drilling operations under contract with Greek Cyprus despite warnings from Turkey and increasing tensions over the natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Arinc repeated the threat that Turkey’s warships will escort exploration vessels. “Turkey has rights and capabilities under international law. The whole world should know that we will in no way hesitate to use them.”

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz meanwhile explained that a continental shelf delimination accord will be signed between his country and the internationally not recognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), to determine the boundaries in which the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) could conduct its research in cooperation with a Norwegian company. He too emphasized that the Turkish navy and air force will escort the exploration ship.

The dispute over a huge deposit of natural gas between the shores of Cyprus and Israel has been additionally heated up after Israel has conducted reconnaissance flights with drones in the area. Turkey tries to muscle Cyprus into an agreement for a joint exploration and drilling project between the Greek and the Turkish parts of the island. In a response to the latest threats from Turkey, the Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos warned a few days ago that “any attack against Cyprus will be regarded as an attack against Greece.”

Turkey also acts increasingly threatening about the upcoming Cypriot EU-presidency for the second half of 2012, which will be only held by the government of the Greek part. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in July that all relations with the EU will be completely frozen, should Greek Cyprus alone assume the presidency on 1 July 2012.

Both, the EU and the U.S. are urging all sides to show restraint, but Turkish threats about military action are not helpful to defuse the situation.

(Sources: Hurriyet, Malta Star; Cyprus EU Presidency; 21 Sept 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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