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Our View: Government faces tough decisions over our EEZ and Turkey

ENI's Saipem 12000 drillship

The government has refrained from making a big issue out of Turkey’s decision to use its warships to stop the ENI drillship from reaching the drilling location in Block 3 of the Cypriot EEZ. Its reaction has been low-key, by usual standards, with President Anastasiades saying on Sunday that ‘in order to avoid any crisis, we are taking such diplomatic measures so that at last there would be respect for the sovereign rights of the Cyprus Republic’.

All the handlings were geared towards ‘avoiding anything that could worsen (the situation), without ignoring, at the same time, everything, in violation of international law, Turkey is doing’, he explained. The rest of the politicians and parties were less restrained, all offering suggestions about how the government should deal with the provocations. These included a recourse to the UN Security Council, telling the EU that Cyprus would block financial assistance to Turkey, imposing sanctions on Turkey, convening the national council and stepping up diplomatic actions in the direction of friendly countries so that Turkey would not implement its plans.

Who will impose sanctions on Turkey? The EU, which depends on Turkey to keep refugees on its territory, or so-called friendly country Russia that is co-operating with Ankara in Syria and negotiating a new multi-billion-dollar pipeline to Turkey? Cyprus would probably not even be able to secure a bland resolution from the UN Security Council about this matter. Even the argument that Turkey would not dare take on big oil companies of powerful states, cited repeatedly by our politicians, does not seem very plausible at present.

Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Italian government ‘was taking all possible diplomatic measures for the resolution of the matter’. The Saipem 12000 drillship will stay in its current position until the situation is resolved, ANSA reported. How the situation will be resolved nobody can safely say, but it seems more than likely that no state is prepared to confront Turkey, let alone impose sanctions, over an issue that does not concern it or affect its national interests. Even in the unlikely event that governments, condemn Turkey’s actions that are in violation of international law, will Ankara back down?

The painful truth is that the responsibility for defending the Cyprus Republic’s sovereign rights and ensuring the security of the ENI drillship belongs exclusively to the Cyprus Republic and no other country will do this for us. But because we do not have the ability to do either Ankara will be calling the shots, even if this means showing complete disregard for international law. The fact that the Saipem 12000 has not moved from the position, at which it was halted by the Turkish warships five days ago, is an indication the Turks would want to dictate how the situation is resolved. The government may have some very tough decisions to take in the next few days.

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