Turkey resolute on eastern Mediterranean drilling - defence minister

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and naval commanders touched down on the frigate TCG Gemlik on Saturday to give a warning to Turkey’s rivals for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, as tensions continue to simmer around Cyprus.

The military visit was followed on Sunday by a vow from Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay that Turkey would “resolutely” continue drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

The TCG Gemlik is guarding the drillship Yavuz, one of two Turkish vessels currently searching for hydrocarbon reserves in disputed areas of the eastern Mediterranean. A third is expected to begin its search in the area later this year.

The European Union has levelled sanctions at Turkey over what it calls illegal drilling activities. But Ankara says areas of the maritime territory claimed by Cyprus and Greece fall on its continental shelf, and rejects the Greek Cypriot administration’s right to drill since it says this would infringe on the rights of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

“We will defence our rights and those of the Republic of Northern Cyprus until the end, on this subject we are determined. Let no one test our strength”, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Akar as saying.

“We won’t allow any fait accompli in Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean or in the Aegean … We have said from the beginning that any decision taken without our input has no chance of succeeding”, he said.

As Akar and the commanders went on to visit the Hala Sultan Mosque in Larnaca, Cyprus, to mark the beginning of the Eid al-Adha religious festival on Sunday, the vice president had his own message for Turks on one of their most important holidays.

“Now, Fatih, Yavuz, and Barbaros drilling vessels are in the region. Oruc Reis is sailing to the region. Our determination at this point is extremely certain", Anadolu quoted Oktay as saying. The vice president referred to the three vessels engaged in the search for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.

"Without any hesitation, Turkey will continue to defend rights of its own and Turkish Cypriots," he said.