THE NAVTEX issued by Turkey, reserving part of the Cypriot EEZ in order to conduct seismic surveys in May and June, understandably, sparked a strong reaction by the government and the political parties. Speaking to journalists after Thursday evening’s meeting with Mustafa Akinci, President Anastasiades said, “we cannot on the one hand talk about confidence-building measures and on the other hand have these Turkish provocations.”
The surveys that would be undertaken by the Turkish vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa will take place in the sea off the Karpas peninsula. The Cyprus foreign ministry issued an announcement on Thursday saying the surveys that take place in the Republic’s territorial waters, continental shelf and EEZ would “constitute a violation of Cyprus’ sovereignty rights and sovereignty.” It said that if the violations took place, the Republic would “act in the way it deems appropriate, in line with international law.”
Meanwhile, despite Anastasiades’ complaints about the provocations, his spokesman, Nicos Christodoulides, tried to calm things down yesterday, saying the government, “on a communications level is not going to respond daily to Turkey.” This task would be left to the opposition parties that stepped up their rhetoric in the last few days, demanding a strong response from the government, without specifying what they had in mind.
Christodoulides said the government “will do what must be done so that the sovereign rights of the Cyprus Republic will be protected.” Although he did not divulge what actions would be taken he mentioned that Turkey would be reported to the UN and EU. This, sadly, reflects the powerlessness of the Republic, which does not have the practical means to stop Turkey’s violations of its sovereignty. All the government can do is report Turkey to different organisations none of which will take action to enforce international law. This is our predicament.
Turkey’s action had two objectives, said Christodoulides. It wanted to create grey areas about the situation in the East Med and in so doing cause harm to the Cyprus economy, particularly the tourism and energy sectors. There was a broader issue that the spokesman appeared to have missed. Ankara was in effect warning the Republic that without a settlement of the Cyprus problem, its energy plans would be constantly under threat from Turkey, which had the practical means to wreak havoc in the East Med. The problem is that the Republic does not have the means to prevent Turkey causing harm to the energy and tourism sectors if this was what it chose to do.
For as long as the talks were making progress, Turkey did not stage any provocations but with the process stalled – despite the resumption of talks – and drilling set to start in July Ankara has decided to serve notice of what we should expect if there is no settlement.