THE arrival of the West Capella drillship in Block 11 in the early hours of Wednesday and the reaction of the Turkish government have dominated the news, even overshadowing last week’s collapse of the conference on Cyprus.
We have heard about little else in the last few days, from the media and from the politicians, the latter constantly issuing assurances that everything was moving along smoothly and according to plan. Exploratory drilling was expected to begin in the next few days, once all the preparatory work was completed.
So far so good. Turkey has issued its own Navtex and Notams notices and has a frigate monitoring the West Capella from a distance of a few kilometres. It had done the same in the past when exploratory drilling was taking place. On Thursday, Reuters reported that two Turkish frigates and a submarine had been deployed in the eastern Mediterranean in order to “guarantee the security of oil transportation.” This was a peculiar explanation considering oil transportation is not at risk.
Turkey’s foreign ministry also issued a statement, late Thursday, saying it would protect its “its rights and interests in its continental shelf,” carry on supporting the Turkish Cypriot side and the “necessary answer would be given to the unilateral actions of the Greek Cypriot side.” The Turkish energy minister, meanwhile, said that the Barbaros will head to Morphou bay and that Turkey would buy its own platform to start its own exploratory drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
In response to Ankara’s rhetoric, the Cyprus government through ministers and the spokesman, have been urging the public to remain calm and assuring us that there was no reason to worry. We hope they are correct, but we fear that repeating these assurances all the time and calling for calm has the exact opposite effect. This makes people worry, especially after the report from Greece’s defence ministry, some months ago, about the danger of a heated incident in Cyprus seas in the summer. More recently, President Anastasiades also referred to this threat, for his own reasons.
Turkey’s objective is to raise the ante through naval moves and strong-worded rhetoric and the Cyprus government appears caught in two minds about how to respond. On the one hand, it is avoiding becoming involved in any exchanges with Ankara, which is the right thing to do, but on the other hand, it keeps giving re-assurances to the public indicating that it is concerned about Turkey’s intimidation tactics.
We should all heed the advice of defence minister Christoforos Fokaides, who said yesterday that “the sooner we stop dealing daily with what is happening with the drillship, the better.”