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Cyprus

Turkey waves off Cyprus’ legal measures on EEZ as ‘only talk’

File photo: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

Turkey on Thursday waved off Cyprus’ legal measures against its activities in the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), calling them a bluff.

“They [Greek Cypriots] only talk. We aren’t listening,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told a reporter.

Greek Cypriot sources on Thursday said Turkey was ‘hurting’ as a result of legal measures taken against companies and individuals involved in the illegal activities.

During an unofficial briefing given to Greek Cypriot media, sources asserted that several arrest warrants (in the double digits) issued by local courts were already taking their toll on the activities of Turkey’s Fatih drillship, still located some 40 nautical miles west of Paphos since it arrived there in May.

The sources did not name the individuals or corporations, but it was understood they related to the crew of the Turkish drillship, the CEO of Turkey’s petroleum corporation TPAO, as well as foreign nationals aboard the vessel.

The warrants were already having an impact, it was claimed, as a number of Norwegians working aboard the Fatih and/or the ships supporting it, withdrew and have since been replaced by Turkish nationals.

It was not immediately clear whether some of the warrants have been converted to European or international arrest warrants, but the sources said this was the intention.

In theory, should a person named on the warrants be arrested in a European country, and that country has a mutual extradition treaty with Cyprus, Cypriot authorities would be able to seek that person’s extradition to the island.

This would apply to Turkish nationals as well. The fact that Turkey itself does not extradite its own nationals would be a moot point in this case, as Cyprus would be requesting extradition from the European country where the individual was apprehended.

The sources said CEOs, directors, management and other individuals of any company engaged in any activity in the EEZ, whether directly or indirectly, without the express permission of the Republic are criminally liable and could face fines of €1m and/or jail time of up to five years.

The penalties are defined in two laws: the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf Law of 2004, and the Hydrocarbons (prospection, exploration and exploitation) Law of 2007.

Asked whether the Turkish ship has actually begun drilling, the sources said they could not say for sure.

However the assumption is that Ankara is serious about drilling at some point, given that operating a drillship at sea costs about half a million dollars a day.

The same sources ruled out international arbitration between Cyprus and Turkey, given that the latter is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos)

They said Cyprus had repeatedly called on Turkey to enter into bilateral negotiations with a view to delineating their respective maritime zones in accordance with international law, but Ankara rejected all such overtures. The latest approach to Turkey was made via a letter to the United Nations Secretary General on December 12, 2018.

Not being a party to Unclos did not prevent Turkey from recognising customary international law, which states that the exclusive economic zone is understood to be the median line between the shores of two neighbouring countries. Nevertheless, Turkey was disregarding customary law as well.

Turkey’s drillship has encroached well beyond the notional median line.

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