The foreign ministry on Friday briefed EU ambassadors in Cyprus on the state of play vis-à-vis Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the background to the recent Turkish activity off the west coast of the island.
Last month, Ankara positioned its drillship Fatih, some 40 nautical miles off Paphos claiming the area “lies entirely within Turkish continental shelf notified to the UN”.
Since then the EU has on three occasions condemned Ankara’s actions. In its progress report on Turkey released Wednesday, the European Commission recalled the European Council’s statement of March 2018 strongly condemning Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
It also recalled Turkey’s obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations and called on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and International Law. In March 2019, it said, the EU called on Turkey to refrain from any such illegal acts, to which it would respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus.
Many questions arose however as to the legal status of the area where the Fatih was positioned given that it is not an area containing any blocks licensed by Cyprus, and also the fact that the island does not have a delimitation agreement with Ankara, questions which the foreign ministry was seeking to clarify for the ambassadors given the complicated international legalities.
The issue caused a furore recently when British Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan appeared to question Cyprus’ sovereignty over its EEZ. He was backed by the UK government a day later, which said: “With reference to Turkey’s planned drilling, as the Minister for Europe and the Americas stated on 14 May, the position of the UK is that, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute. We have called on Turkey not to drill in this area.”
It added: “We also continue to recognise the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed exclusive economic zone [and note that Cyprus has reached agreements with countries to its south and east over the limits of its exclusive economic zone.]
The Presentation to EU Ambassadors 31.5.2019 on the current state of play, the ministry said would also be posted on its website