Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey has two drillships, two exploratory vessels and a navy to protect them and will move forward with its plans to drill in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Never in our history have we had so many ships,” Erdogan told MPs of his Justice and Development party in Ankara on Wednesday night.
He said Turkey now has at its disposal two drillships and two exploratory vessels which will move forward as planned, “ensuring the security of the area with the support of our navy”.
“We will not tolerate any action which overlooks the rights and interests of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
He added that all options continue to be on the table.
Responding to the multiple arrest warrants issued against the crew of the Turkish drillship Fatih which is operating in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Erdogan repeated that as a guarantor power Turkey will defend the rights of Turkish Cypriots by drilling for gas off north Cyprus.
“Nobody can tell us ‘why did you do this like this’ or ‘why did you do this’. To whoever asks ‘what business do you have here?’ we respond ‘Really? We are a guarantor power, and as such we will protect our rights until the end, wherever these may be, across our entire EEZ’.”
In early May Turkey sent its drillship, the Fatih, to waters well inside Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, at a location about 60km west of Paphos.
It emerged on Thursday that arrest warrants have been issued by the Republic of Cyprus against the crew of the Fatih drillship. Some have reportedly been approved as European arrest warrants, while efforts are still being made to secure international arrest warrants for the crew.
In addition to the warrants issued against the CEO of Turkish petroleum company TPAO and the Turkish crew members of Fatih, warrants have also been issued for British and American nationals aboard the drillship.
The warrants have been sent by the government in cooperation with the legal service to police stations islandwide.
The warrants have been justified by what the Republic of Cyprus views as an infringement of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf laws of 2014, which define what constitutes a violation of the Republic’s sovereignty.