Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side upped the rhetoric on Monday with regard to Cyprus’ energy plans with warning messages to the government coming from both the north and from Ankara, one of which was also directed at Athens.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Monday by Turkish Cypriot news outlet Bayrak that the Cyprus government’s energy plans were doomed to fail,
According to the report, Erdogan said Turkey would continue to “respond firmly to impositions” in the Eastern Mediterranean both “in the field” and diplomatically.
Referring to the RoC’s energy plans, he added: “We are saddened by their unilateral hydrocarbon explorations in the Eastern Mediterranean that are doomed to fail.”
“Everyone will see and understand in the end that these attempts that continue to disregard our country and our brotherhood will end in failure,” he added.
The message from the north came from Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay who, in the second part of an interview with Phileleftheros published on Monday, said Turkey would react to the drilling later this year by US energy giants ExxonMobil, even if there are ongoing Cyprus talks.
Ozersay said there were areas of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone claimed by Ankara, both on its own behalf and on behalf of Turkish Cypriots. Turkey would also proceed with its own drilling in areas it lays claim to that have been licensed out by the Cyprus government.
The Turkish vessel Fatih is due to drill in the Eastern Mediterranean on October 29 but an exact location has not been revealed.
Exxon is to drill later this year in block 10, which until now had not been claimed by Ankara. Turkey’s claims on the island’s EEZ partly overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7. Ankara also supports the north’s claims on blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13, including within few kilometres from the Aphrodite gas field in block12.
However, Ozersay argued that a section of block 10 is located in an area where Turkish Cypriots also have rights, he said, and their plans would not be affected by any ongoing talks. The leaders are due to meet on Friday but negotiations have not officially resumed.
“I have heard hundreds of times the Greek Cypriots declare that their energy plans will continue. So will ours,” said Ozersay.
Meanwhile Turkey’s advisor for economic affairs, Yigit Bulut warned that a “heated dispute” between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean would lead to a military disaster for Greece, CNA reported. Bulut said Turkey’s military force in the Mediterranean was three times greater than that of Greece.
In an article in the Turkish newspaper Star, Bulult said Greece, Nicosia and Israel are pursuing a “dirty game” in the Mediterranean, thinking that they have the “big brothers” behind them.
Last Thursday the Turkish navy said it stopped a Greek frigate from ‘harassing’ the Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, which was skirting blocks in Cyprus’ EEZ south west of the island
It also said Turkey would continue to exercise its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its continental shelf.
“We recommend that Greece abstain from acts that would cause an escalation in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.
A Greek defence source denied there was an incident but said the Greeks were monitoring the activity of the Barbaros. Turkey had issued a Navtex, an advisory to ships including coordinates, that it would be conducting seismic surveys in the Mediterranean from October 18 to February 1.
“The heart wants Greece and Turkey to be ‘best friends, the best neighbours’ in the region but they are not. This is not because of us but because of them,” Bulut added.
“I hope that Greece does not get into this dirty game… any physical harassment of Turkish ships and a hot episode with Turkey will end with a military disaster for Greece… I hope logic will prevail.”
The government was largely silent on the issue on Monday but the more hardline parties were critical of both Ozersay and the government.
Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told Politis radio that Cyprus would continue to operate and move forward on the basis of international law “in cooperation with very large companies and other states like the US”.
Diko reacted by saying: “It is clear that Kudret Ozersay has been named by Turkey as the main mouthpiece of its unacceptable positions and claims while [Turkish Cypriot leader] Mustafa Akinci has clearly been downgraded by Ankara. Contacts with a portion of the Greek Cypriot political leadership with Mr Ozersay also strengthen the image of the pseudo-minister as the main interlocutor on the Turkish side.” Solidarity and the Green issued similar statements saying Cyprus needed to do more internationally to have pressure put on Turkey.
Defence Minister Savvas Angelides was in Paris on Monday where he briefed his French counterpart, Florence Parly, over the Turkish provocations and the presence of the Barbaros southwest of Paphos.
Angelides said he would enquire about French intentions in the region, due to the presence of French energy giants active in Cyprus’ EEZ, such as Total.
“They do care, they do have their planning and we will contribute to any actions, which at the end of the day aim at concluding the energy programme successfully,” the minister said.