Turkish navy vessels will accompany second drillship on course for Cyprus

Turkish Ministry of Defence on Thursday announced that Turkish navy vessels will accompany Turkey’s second drillship Yavuz, which will start operating off the Karpas Peninsula on the northeast of Cyprus in early July, according to the head of Turkish Petroleum.

The Turkish ministry’s announcement came after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras headed to Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit confident that European Union leaders will back specific measures against Turkey for its gas drilling activities off Cyprus.

A spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, responding Ahval's questions over the escalating situation in East Mediterranean, said they have seen media reports and;

"urge all parties to act with restraint.  It is not in anyone’s interest to engage in provocative rhetoric or action.  

We continue to believe the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement.”

A meeting of European Union ministers on Tuesday, which called for appropriate measures against Turkey over tensions in the east Mediterranean between Ankara, Athens and Nicosia over hydrocarbon resources, boosted Tsipras’ optimism, the Greek daily said. 

The ministers said Turkey had not responded to the EU’s repeated calls to cease its drilling activities and said that certain acts by Ankara had had a serious negative impact on EU-Turkey relations.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said the European Commission would put forward proposals for political and economic measures, including Turkey’s pre-accession financial assistance and dialogue, and the European External Action Service would examine other targeted measures.

Tsipras said in an interview with Greek channel Open TV that he believed very clear decisions would be taken in Brussels and possibly even measures, if Turkey continued what he called its provocative behaviour.

Tsipras said he would not allow Turkey to start drilling off the southeastern Aegean island of Kastellorizo, known as Meis in Turkey, which is close to the Turkish coast. 

The Cypriot government on Tuesday threatened to veto any agreement on future EU enlargement, which needs unanimous backing of all EU states to be approved, unless the bloc takes a tough stance against Turkey. Ankara on Monday accused Greece and Cyprus of abusing their EU membership to push the bloc to impose sanctions.

Turkey, the only country to recognise the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, says Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in gas exploration and a share of any revenues. Turkey also has territorial claims overlapping with Cyprus' EEZ.

Turkey sent a vessel to waters well inside the Cyprus EEZ in early May which later started drilling.

"We will defend both our rights and the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey's determination will not be hindered by anyone," said Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez,  as second drillship Yavuz started its journey to Cyprus. 

The dispute over gas drilling its not the only source of tensions between Turkey and the EU. The European Parliament in March called on EU leaders to formally suspend Turkey’s accession talks and to use earmarked pre-accession funds to support Turkish civil society due to what it said was a backslide in democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Turkey has been an official candidate to join the EU since 1999 and has had a customs union deal with the bloc in place since 1996. Accession negotiations started in October 2005, but have stalled in recent years.