Turkey’s EEZ activities undermine regional security, says Cypriot DM

Turkey’s illegal activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are an unprecedented violation of Cyprus’ sovereign rights and are undermining security in the region, the Cyprus Mail quoted Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides as saying on Sunday.

Without an end to Turkey’s illegal activities in the East Mediterranean, there can be no prospects for resolving the Cypriot problem, the defence minister added.

Turkish energy exploration near the island raised tensions this week as Ankara announced plans to send a second drillship to the eastern Mediterranean to look for oil and gas amid an ongoing dispute over the EEZ.

Cyprus has contracted international oil companies to explore for potentially rich sources of gas in its waters and Turkey says the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island should have a share in any proceeds, but the internationally recognised Cypriot government says any wealth will be divided once Cyprus is reunited. 

Noting that the Greek Cypriot government continues to take action to end Turkey’s flagrant violation of Cyprus’ EEZ, Angelides said, “We definitely do not stop here, we continue with various actions on different fronts so that we have a substantial result, which is the end of this illegality.”

Greek Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Terence Quick said that Turkey’s provocative actions in Cyprus’ EEZ constitute a blatant new challenge to the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, the Cyprus Mail reported.

“Athens and Nicosia will use all the means available to ensure our rights against anyone who acts in violation of International Law,” he said while speaking at the Congress of Cypriot Organisations in Greece.

The United States and European leaders this week have backed the Republic of Cyprus over its concern with Turkish energy exploration near the island with European Council President Donald Tusk calling on Turkey to “respect the sovereign rights of EU member states.” 

The Turkish drillship Fatih is in the northern part of Cyprus’ EEZ accompanied by three other vessels and it is located in an area that has not been licensed by Cyprus for hydrocarbons exploration, the Cyprus Mail said.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Sunday slammed Greece amid territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea, another source of tension between the NATO allies.

The Turkish foreign ministry accused Greece of attempting to abuse international organisations, including NATO, by drawing them into Aegean disputes to justify its national positions, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

"While the Aegean disputes between Greece and Turkey are actually being addressed through bilateral channels, the attempts of Greece, our neighbour and Ally, to abuse international organizations, including NATO, and draw them into these disputes with the aim of justifying her national positions are not new,’’ the statement from the ministry said.

The vessels may only operate in the Aegean Sea on the basis of diplomatic clearances issued by both Turkey and Greece for specified areas at sea, it said.

"Greece’s claims that the NATO activity in the Aegean sea has rendered Turkey’s legitimate position that is fully in accordance with international law 'de facto invalid' are in vain," the statement stressed.

The ministry called on Greece to “put an end to its policy of disregarding international law, historical facts and Turkey’s legitimate rights and interests, and to forgo its efforts to create de facto situations."

Later on Sunday, Greece responded to Ankara, strongly condemning the claim that Greece wants to drag NATO into a dispute between itself and Turkey, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported.

“Such unacceptable and unfounded claims against Greece undermine the stability of the area and the cohesion of the Alliance,''Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas said.

Gennimatas added that similar claims have no place in international law and have been answered “appropriately and repeatedly.”