A letter from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to the international community, including the UN and EU on its stance vis-à-vis Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) “will not go unanswered”, Cyprus said on Saturday.
Earlier, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that Cavusoglu sent a letter to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, other member states and the foreign ministers of the UN Security Council permanent members – France, Russia, China, the US and Britain -laying out its position on drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
In a response, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the letter is “completely baseless, and will not go unanswered by the Republic of Cyprus.”
He added: “The Republic of Cyprus will take the appropriate actions in the attempt by Turkey to mislead the international community by justifying its illegal actions at sea.”
Turkey’s drillship, Fatih has been located approximately 40 nautical miles off the coast of Paphos for about a week, raising concerns in the region among international players.
Prodromou said: “At this time, Turkey is acting against international law, and is violating the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus.”
Anadolu agency, which said it had obtained the Turkish foreign minister’s letter, reported that Cavusoglu said the area where Ankara has positioned its drillship Fatih, some 40 nautical miles off Paphos “lies entirely within Turkish continental shelf notified to the UN”.
Fatih’s operations were located 75km or 46.6 miles off the west coast and the drilling area “has nothing to do with any of the Greek Cypriots’ (GC) so-called licence areas or Turkish Cypriots’ licensed areas granted to Turkish Petroleum (TP),” the letter said.
According to Anadolu, Cavusoglu said the EU’s support for Nicosia on the issue was not compatible with international law.
While Fatih is 40+ miles off Cyprus, it’s also double that distance from the Turkish coast. Cyprus and Turkey do not have a delimitation agreement for their respective exclusive economic zones and Nicosia has, under Cyprus law, set its limit at the median line.
Cavusoglu said in the letter that Turkey “does not recognise the unilateral and illegitimate exclusive economic zone claims of the Greek Cypriots” and added that “third parties should refrain from taking sides in overlapping maritime boundary claims and they should not act as if they are a court in rendering judgment on bilateral maritime boundaries”.
“He highlighted that the question of the entitlement of islands to maritime jurisdiction areas and their effect in the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas are completely separate issues of the Law of the Sea,” Anadolu reported, adding that Cavusoglu said Turkey had made its position on drillings clear since 2004 and registered it with the UN.
“He said the final maritime boundaries in that part of the Mediterranean can only be settled through agreements and not by infringing upon third parties’ rights, to be concluded between relevant coastal states based on international law,” the report said.
Overlapping maritime jurisdiction claims of EU members, “infringing on the legitimate rights of the third countries cannot be portrayed as the external borders of the EU”, the letter said.
A delimitation agreement with Cyprus on respective EEZs could only happen after a Cyprus settlement, Cavusoglu said.
Anadolu said in the absence of that he had told Mogherini the EU should not take sides.
He also addressed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Washington’s stance and support for Cyprus on the issue.
Turkey, he said had “legitimate rights and vital interests in the Eastern Mediterranean” and has been “exercising its sovereign rights over its continental shelf in accordance with international law”.
Cavusoglu said Cyprus had been “disregarding the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriots, as the co-owners of the Island, on natural resources of the island” and that this was jeopardising the security and stability in the region.
“Cavusoglu stressed that unless the Greek Cypriots involve the Turkish Cypriots into the decision-making process regarding hydrocarbon resources or cease their unilateral hydro-carbon activities, Turkish drilling and survey vessels will also continue activities in the areas where the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus granted licences to TP in the south and east of the Island,” Anadolu wrote.
Turkey should not be expected “to sit idly by and condone the ongoing violation of its rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots”, the letter said.
Meanwhile, main-opposition Akel also weighed in on the issue, blaming the government for Ankara’s actions.
Akel leader, Andros Kyprianou said that Turkey’s actions were foreseeable, and that the government did not want and was not able to react in time.
“They ignored our repeated warnings, and insisted on their unprecedented tactic,” he said.
He added that in their attempts to hide their failures, the government started to blame Akel, calling them ‘Turkophiles’.
The government said in their response back that Akel needs to stop and recognise what Turkey’s plans are, as well as, the real danger, instead of attacking the government.
“They should find and do something more useful,” Prodromou said.