Cyprus Mail

Erdogan says Turkey will stick to its programme in the East Med (update 2)

The Turkish drillship Fatih

As a Turkish drillship remained in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Tuesday its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country will continue to implement its programme in the Eastern Mediterranean and is trying, as a guarantor, to safeguard the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the south-eastern Mediterranean.

“All the people of Cyprus own what emerges from these waters, those in the south and in the north are equal owners,” he said adding that Turkey is fighting to equally protect the rights of its fellow Turks in northern Cyprus.

Invited by journalists to comment on the US and EU’s call for Turkey to end its operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan said “we are currently continuing to implement our own programme. We do not comment on what commands are given by some, what they see and how they evaluate it.”

Later on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said  seismic research in the area has been completed and that Turkey would send a second drillship to the Eastern Mediterranean.

In Nicosia President Nicos Anastasiades called for the support of foreign countries to prevent Turkey from carrying out illegal drilling activities in the EEZ as 16 new diplomats were sworn in.

Speaking in front of the new ambassadors and high commissioners, Anastasiades said Cyprus counts on their “collective support either as members of the UN or the EU to exert your influence to prevent Turkey proceeding with illegal drilling activities.”

As the Turkish drillship Fatih remained stationary without having performed any drilling operations yet, Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos and Greek Minister of National Defence Evangelos Apostolakis on Tuesday denounced Turkey’s attempted illegal drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ.

The vessel and three support vessels are located at about 60km west of Paphos, well inside Cyprus’ EEZ.

Katrougalos called on Turkey to stop violating the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus or proceed with any further illegal actions. The systematic violation of the international law will result in Turkey’s further isolation, he said.

Apostolakis also condemned Turkish illegal actions in Cyprus’ EEZ, underlining that the international community, including the EU, US, Egypt, and Israel, have criticised Turkey’s stance.

“We commend the Republic of Cyprus for its calm stance and we remain in constant coordination with Cyprus and its strategic partners. We support the Republic of Cyprus in all of its actions,” Apostolakis said.

The Turkish energy ministry said in an announcement that the country and the breakaway regime in the north cannot be excluded from the energy equation in the region and called on all to benefit from Turkey’s win – win approach. The ministry argued that Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean stem from international law and that it is not possible to accept declarations made by internal and external factors about Turkey’s activities on its own continental shelf.

According to the ministry, Turkey knows that natural resources can play an important role for peace, stability and prosperity.

“At this point, this multifaceted and positive political action, which is important both for Turkey’s own security and for Europe, must be seen as an opportunity for all sides,” it said.

Instead of instigating regional conflict through steps that increase ambiguity and tension, it said, “we call for everyone to benefit from our country’s approach for a win-win situation and contribute to it by creating a stable area guaranteeing justice on the island.”

Meanwhile, Nicosia was gathering information on the crew members with a view to having international arrest warrants issued against them. Contrary to reports on Monday, Undersecretary to the President Vasilis Palmas clarified to the Cyprus Mail that the government has yet to file an application with the Nicosia district court requesting an international arrest warrant for the crew members.

“We’re in the process of identifying the individuals and collecting data on the crews, because the application must be thorough and airtight if it’s to stand up in court,” he said.

International arrest warrants would be sought not only for the crew of the Fatih, but of the three other ships as well.

The application is expected to be filed to court sometime in the next few days.

Cavusoglu dismissed as a bluff statements on international arrest warrants of the staff involved. “We do not take seriously such threats,” he said.

According to press reports, the three supporting vessels are listed on the Norway International Register and may be manned by Norwegian crews. Mention was also made of some of the crew members being Russian or Ukrainian nationals.

The three supporting ships have been identified as the Korkut, the Sancar and the Altan. These are their Turkish names. However, until very recently they were going by their original names: Siem Luisa, Siem Sophie and Siem Sasha, respectively.

On what other actions are at Cyprus’ disposal to exert pressure on Turkey, Palmas reiterated the steps being taken on the political and diplomatic levels.

Foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides is in Paris for a working visit during which he will have a series of meetings focusing on Turkey’s illegal actions in the EEZ, bilateral relations and energy issues.

Anastasiades will raise the issue of the Turkish provocations at the upcoming informal European Council, on Thursday in Romania.

Nicosia is also considering asking the EU to squeeze Ankara on the matter of the EU-Turkey customs union, or blocking Ankara’s access to EU pre-accession funds.

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