The government on Friday condemned Turkey’s latest attempt to conduct illegal drilling within Cyprus’ maritime zones after news that drillship Fatih is back and has started operations off Karpasia.
“Any claim by Turkey that the drilling is carried out after ‘licensing’ by the so-called ‘TRNC’ to the Turkish petroleum company (TPAO) has no legal basis and any drilling activities carried out on behalf or for the benefit of the illegal secessionist regime are illegal and void just as the pseudo-state is illegal and baseless, according to relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the government said in a written statement.
Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay said on Friday the Fatih had started its operations off the coast of northeastern Cyprus. Oktay was in the north on Friday to attend celebrations for the 36th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence by Turkish Cypriots on November 15, 1983.
According to media in the north, the vessel is around 13 nautical miles off the coast of Galinoporni village, in Karpasia and is expected to carry out drilling in a new location in the area.
The government said that the announced drilling within the eastern exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and Cyprus’ continental shelf, very close to the territorial sea, at 12.4 nautical miles off the coast of Karpasia, “violates the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and international customary law.”
It also condemned the reported illegal seismic investigations by the Oruc Reis research vessel in a large area in the western EEZ / continental shelf of Cyprus, which, it said, is in violation of its sovereign rights.
The arrival of the Fatih comes after the adoption on Monday by the EU Foreign Affairs Council of a framework for restrictive measures against persons and companies involved in Turkey’s unauthorised drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
According to the government the fact that the new illegal actions were announced on the same day the EU’s sanctions framework came into force “is an act of extreme and provocative contempt” of international and European law, as well as repeated calls by the international community for an end to these actions and to respect the sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus.
“It is at least hypocritical for Turkey to claim to be defending the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, while at the same time claiming 44 per cent of the Cyprus EEZ / continental shelf against the legitimate rights of the entire Cypriot people,” the government said.
It added that the interests of the Turkish Cypriots would be better safeguarded by the overall settlement of the Cyprus problem, rather than by conducting illegal activities, namely 10 days before the scheduled meeting of the president with the Turkish Cypriot leader and the UN Secretary-General.
“We urge Turkey once again to put an end to all its illegal activities and to withdraw all drilling and seismic vessels from the maritime zones of Cyprus,” it said.
Recalling the framework of sanctions that have been put into effect by the EU which targets natural and legal persons involved in these activities, the government also called on individuals and companies to terminate any co-operation or assistance in any illegal activities.
The Fatih left earlier in the month its initial location west of Cyprus where it had been anchored since May. It had carried out drilling in two locations dubbed by Turkey as ‘Finike1’ and ‘Finike 2’.
After briefly docking in Mersin for refuelling and maintenance, it was dispatched back into Cypriot seas, this time off Karpasia. It is expected to remain there until February 23.
Turkey criticised the decision and said it would not cease drilling because it is operating on its own continental shelf or areas where Turkish Cypriots have rights.
Another Turkish drillship, Yavuz, is off the southwest coast of Cyprus, in block 7, which the Republic of Cyprus has licensed for gas exploration to French-Italian energy consortium Total-ENI, in early October. It is expected to remain there until January 20.