Turkey runs to UN for support, threatens to end peace talks with Cyprus if drilling is not postponed

There is still one stumbling block to Cyprus becoming a mini-energy giant — namely its uneasy relations with Turkey. Both Israel and Cyprus have reached agreement on their maritime borders and each has accepted the others exclusive economic zone (EEZ), even so Turkey, which occupies the northern part of Cyprus has said it does not accept the agreement.

The Turkish government claims any agreements concluded by Cyprus are void unless, and until, the island is reunited and both the Greek and Turkish communities are represented. With this last point in mind and with tact in the diplomatic arena, Turkey has now fled to the United Nations and warned that it will end the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus issue if the Greek-Cypriot government does not call off its drilling plans. At the same time, Ankara announced that it will be conducting major aeronautical exercises on September 15 in parts of Cyprus’ EEZ area and parts of the Southern East Mediterranean.

Some say that these exercises will begin 24 hours before the start of the drilling of gas and oil….  What a coincidence!  

Parallel to this, it was announced that authorities from the invaded part of the island will sign their own agreements and start their own offshore exploration activities, if Greek Cypriots fail to suspend its activities.
Greek news sources said on Monday that following the move by Turkey to suspend talks at the UN it is now highly expected that the United Nations might just propose that the drilling be postponed.

“This cannot be done,” said one source to defencenet.gr. The drilling is expected to begin on a predefined date and nothing could stop Cyprus from the right to exploit the wealth of its EEZ, ending the scenarios developed over the last few hours by Cyrous’ Kathimerini newspaper that the UN will likely request a postponement of drilling to destroy intra-EU talks.

Nonetheless, and in light to these developments, Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Erato Kozakou Marcoullis is to fly to Israel on Wednesday and meet with Israeli officials in a (unexpected and unscheduled) trip. The same sources reveal that the main topics of conversation will obviously centralize on the scheduled drilling at the end of September as well as the Turkish threats against the sovereignty of Cyprus.

Greece ready to defend Cyprus
In Greece, the enet.gr news site quoted Defence Minister Panos Beglitis as saying in an interview on “Typos tis Kyriakis” newspaper, that Greece has historical and national responsibility to defend the Republic of Cyprus. Referring to the behaviour of Ankara toward Nicosia, in connection with Cyprus’ drilling plans in its territory, said that “Turkey continues to behave as a country that moves outside the framework of international rules and obligations, unilaterally questioning the international law and displaying a culture that refers to the history of conflict in our region. “

The defence minister added that “everyone takes responsibility for his choices and Greece its own.” He noted that it is essential to maintain composure, but also to strengthen our resolve to repel any attempt that challenges sovereignty.

Commenting on the issue, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Panos Panagiotipoulos said that Turkey’s continued efforts to thwart the plans of the Cyprus to move ahead with its sovereign right to drill for natural gas offends international law. 

Panagiotipoulos said that ND urges the Greek government to undertake diplomatic initiatives on this issue quickly and effectively on all levels.

US sends out clear warning to Ankara

Last week Turkey asked that the US urge Nobel Energy’s plans to begin drilling off the coast of Cyprus. In response, the United States said that it will not force a US firm to stop its plans to explore for natural gas off of Greek Cyprus’ south-eastern coast in October despite pressure by Ankara to do so. “I am not about to give advice to American companies,” U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone said in response to a question about whether Washington would urge Noble Energy to stop natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

A few days later US officials said that if Ankara dares to impede drilling for natural gas, then this will upset the US. The US Foreign Office warned Ankara that if it challenged the US platform, then it will receive a “heated” response:

US officials said that the United States will defend the US Company if threats arise. The State Department also stated that “The United States supports the right of all countries, including Cyprus, to ensure energy supply” and added that “Washington also supports energy diversification and rejects energy monopolies”.

Replying to a question on the Turkish representations in the United States against Cyprus and the challenges of Ankara, who went so far as to indirectly threaten military action, US officials said was quoted by an article on www.defencenet.gr as saying that the US knows the position of the Turkish Government on this issue, but ensuring energy supply through increased energy diversity is something the United States strongly supports and will defend.


Russia takes position of Cyprus

Luckily for Cyprus it has many other allies as well, one of which is none other than Russia.  A separate report in defencenet.gr said that Russia considers that Cyprus has the sovereign right to proceed with drilling for research and extraction of hydrocarbons said the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich. Cyprus with a statement of the government’s spokesman expressed its  “satisfaction for the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia on the sovereign right of Cyprus to research and extract hydrocarbons in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). “
The Russian Federation expressed a clear position which relies entirely on international law, which should be respected by all members of the international community and strictly enforced, concludes the declaration of the Cypriot representative.
Now Cyprus is diplomatically “fortified” both from the US and Russia, preparing for the big step, the biggest since 1974 …
Cyprus says plans for drilling will go ahead as scheduled
Last Friday a report from Cyprus mail said that the plans to begin exploration drilling for oil and gas reserves by the Cyprus government will go ahead in six weeks as scheduled. The Energy Service said that if successful the endeavour will be for the benefit of all Cypriots, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot. “We will begin drilling on October 1, perhaps even a week earlier,” said its director, Solon Kassinis.

He added: “We are operating in line with international law on these issues. We’ve done everything. Environmental studies that no one else has done even if the drilling is explorative. Therefore we are moving forward based on international law and what we find will not only be for the Greek Cypriots. We never said something like that. It is for all legal residents of Cyprus.”

Kassinis comments were made in reference to Turkish concerns that the Turkish Cypriot community had not been represented in Cyprus’ drilling agreements with its neighbours and said any such agreements were illegal. Turkey has threatened to take action if the drilling goes ahead pending a Cyprus problem solution which would ensure the Turkish Cypriot community’s representation.

Nevertheless Kassinis assured that all steps had been taken in accordance to international law and that nothing would deter the go ahead this autumn. He said the procedure was expected to last two months, depending on any difficulties that might arise, and that the exploration would determine the quantity and quality of any natural gas find.

Cyprus is taking Turkey’s reaction to its upcoming plans for natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean seriously, its foreign minister has said, insisting that the drilling will be in complete accordance with international law. “Turks are doing what they are saying. We take this issue very seriously,” Greek Cyprus Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoulli told daily Kathimerini in response to a question about reaction to the drilling plans from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“We will show the appropriate reaction if any further step is taken,” Davutoğlu had previously told reporters.
A report in the Hurriyet Daily News quoted Marcoulli as saying that the Greek Cyprus government had launched an information campaign on the issue at both the European Union and the United Nations. She added that they would seek support for the exploration, which is set to begin in October, from European partners when Greek Cyprus goes before the EU Council of Ministers next month.

Turkey coincidentally organizes aeronautical exercises same time as Cyprus begins drilling

Nonetheless, Turkish authorities are determined to postpone the drilling. They announced that while Cyprus begins drilling, they will be conducting major aeronautical exercises planned on 15 September in parts of Cyprus EEZ and the South East Mediterranean, some say 24 hour before start Israel-Cypriot surveys begin.

Without regard to Cyprus, Israeli, Greek, American and indirectly even Russian warnings Turkey insists on putting out its military fleet and aircraft to in ‘war’ excerises in the areas where the US firm Noble Energy will do the drilling. This move definitely shows frustration, on the part of Turkey, which could lead to further tension in the region and if this happens then anything can happen.

At the same time Turkish officials feel somewhat shamed over the recent geo-strategic partnerships in the region and this “shame” is apparently an additional risk factor for ‘irritable’ Turks. On the one side there is the cooperation between Cyprus and Israel in the energy sector and on the other there is the Greek and Israeli military cooperation. These agreements are apparently irritating to Turkey since the Turkish media constantly refers to them.

For instance, the Turkish Sabah newspaper said that Greece is ready to sign a military cooperation agreement with Israel. Indeed, the preliminary work on the agreement is apparently complete and Greek Minister of Defence is scheduled to travel to Israel by September 15 to sign these agreements with his counterpart.

A report on prionokordela.gr quoted the Turkish «Cumhuriyet» newspaper as saying says that immediately after these agreements are signed Israeli fighter planes will fly to Greece within the framework of joint exercises and will be thus stationed at the Andravida Air Force Base.

Invaded part of Cyprus Prepares its Own Drilling Plan

In retaliation to Greek Cyprus’ scheduled drillings set for October, Turkey and the invaded part of the divided island are planning to sign an agreement to draw an exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea and invite foreign companies for gas and oil exploration. “Turkish Cypriots will sign their own agreements and start their own offshore exploration activities, if the Greek Cypriot side fails to suspend its activities to explore and extract oil and natural gas off the southern shores of Cyprus,” Kudret Özersay special representative to the leader of the invaded side Derviş Eroğlu’s, told the Hurriyet Daily News at the weekend.

“If Greek Cypriots do not suspend the natural gas drilling and receive its benefits in the future, Turkish Cypriots would obtain their share on the island’s natural sources,” he said. A unilateral act of the Greek Cypriot side did not mean that the island’s natural resources belong solely to them.

Another official from the Turkish Cypriot administration, who wanted to remain anonymous, clarified their future plan for action if the Greek Cypriots insist on drilling for natural gas. “We can sign an agreement with Turkey for delimitation of the exclusive economic zone, so the ships of TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Company) can explore off the southern and western part of the island,” the official said. “In the past, foreign companies asked us about gas and oil exploration. We can also invite them and provide a license for them to perform explorations around the island,” he added.

Conclusion

The United Nations and the European Union should definitely send out a clear message to Ankara that this provocative behaviour against Cyprus is not and will not be tolerated.  Cyprus has every legal right to move ahead with its plans for drilling. If peace talks collapse they will be on account of intransigence from the Turkish side and the reluctance to seriously discuss a solution.

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