Turkey to continue drilling for gas in East Med, says foreign minister Çavuşoğlu

Turkey will continue drilling for gas in the East Mediterranean off Cyprus despite opposition from Athens and the European Union, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday.

The Turkish foreign minister also called for the Greek Cypriot government to accept a cooperation plan on drilling, suggested by the Turkish Cypriot leader.

Turkey continues to pursue exploration opportunities in areas where it has been licensed by Turkish Cypriot authorities in the north of the island, the foreign minister told Kıbrıs Postası (Cyprus Post) newspaper.

"Any attempt in the region at alliances and cooperation in the region that alienate Turkey are destined for failure,’’ Çavuşoğlu said. 

Tensions have been soaring between Turkey and Greek Cyprus and Greece over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Nicosia and Athens disagree with Ankara’s claims of drilling rights in the region. Turkey, the only nation to recognise Northern Cyprus, maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island.

European Union member states and U.S. officials have objected to Turkey's increasing drilling efforts in the region. 

Turkey's deployment of two ships -  the Fatih and the Yavuz - to search for oil and gas in the region has sparked a dispute with Greek Cyprus and prompted a threat of EU sanctions for Ankara's "unacceptable escalation" of the row.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akınc on Saturday reissued a proposal to establish a joint committee to end the row over the offshore gas drilling activities.

Çavuşoğlu lauded the suggestion by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı for the formation of a joint committee on hydrocarbons as "timely" and "well-advised."

Anastasiades has requested a meeting with Greek Cypriot's political party leaders on July 16 where he will inform leaders on Akinci’s proposal.