Russia responds to to Turkey’s sabre-rattling ahead of drilling in Cyprus

Cyprus Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markoullis on Saturday expressed her “absolute satisfaction” with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s response to Turkey’s sabre-rattling ahead of drilling in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a report in the Cyprus mail said. “The response of the Russian Federation to our representations was immediate and sends a strong message to Turkey and the international community in general,” she said. “We are truly grateful for this steadfast stance of Russia, which has always been and continues to be a shield and support against any threats by Turkey, a shield based on international law and UN resolutions,” added Marcoullis.
 

In an official press release, the Russian Federation clearly expressed Cyprus’ sovereign right, based on international law, to carry out explorations and drill for hydrocarbons in its EEZ.
 
The press release referred specifically to the Law of the Sea, which Russia and Cyprus have signed, though Turkey has not. Cyprus has also signed agreements delineating its EEZ between neighbouring states, namely Lebanon, Egypt and Israel. Some reports suggest Lebanon’s parliament has yet to ratify the treaty due to pressure from Turkey.
 
The Russian statement also called on Turkey not to link the actions of the Cyprus Republic, which are based on its sovereign rights, with the process to solve the Cyprus issue.
 
Cyprus has signed a production-sharing contract with Houston-based Noble Energy. The company has a concession to explore for hydrocarbons in an offshore field in its EEZ, southeast of Cyprus, known as Block 12. Noble also has a stake in exploratory drilling currently underway in nearby gas fields in Israel’s EEZ. Drilling in Cyprus’ Block 12 is expected to start by October 1.
 
The Eastern Mediterranean basin is believed to contain massive amounts of natural gas reserves.
 
In recent weeks, the Turkish leadership has warned Cyprus against making any moves that might ignore the rights of Turkish Cypriots, saying that if gas exploration goes ahead, it will take “appropriate measures”. The Turkish foreign ministry has also made representations to Washington, warning that drilling in Cyprus’ southeast waters could jeopardise the ongoing peace process when it’s at a crucial stage.

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu’s top aide Kudret Ozersay has also warned that the Turkish Cypriots will start taking unilateral steps to exploit resources in the island’s northern third if the Cypriot government goes ahead with plans to explore and extract its natural resources.

According to the Turkish Cypriot press, Ozersay met with Israeli Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Harari on Friday, where the two likely discussed Cyprus and Israel’s plans to extract and distribute their natural gas resources.

Saturday’s Phileleftheros reported that the Turkish Navy and Air Force are planning military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean starting from September 15.

Last Wednesday, the US administration said it was aware of Turkey’s position on the issue, adding however, that it strongly supports all countries’ plans to secure energy supplies through better energy diversity.
The Cypriot minister said she will raise the issue before the EU Council of Ministers at their next ad hoc meeting on September 2 and 3.

The Turkish response to scheduled drilling will also be discussed during a meeting with her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman in Israel this Wednesday, she added.
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