The new Turkey
Turkey - Cyprus relations


West lacks leverage over Turkey - columnist

24 March 2018

Europe’s ever diminishing ability to exert leverage over Turkey adds to the difficulties Greece and Cyprus face in their relations with their neighbour, wrote journalist Nikos Kostandaras in an editorial appearing in Greek paper Kathimerini.

Characterizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as being in “survival mode”, Kostandaras said the only way he can retain power is by presenting himself as a protector of Muslims and as a “great victor”. To maintain this image he engages in actions that challenging the sovereignty of Greek Cyprus and place continual pressure on Athens.

Greece and Cyrus are currently in dispute with Turkey on multiple fronts. Turkey deployed its navy this year to prevent the Cypriots from exploring hydrocarbon reserves around the shores of the island, and has questioned the Treaty of Lausanne that delineates borders between Greece and Turkey, as well as ramping up tensions over disputed islets in the Aegean.

To cap things off,  Turkey arrested two Greek soldiers at the start of this month, who had allegedly strayed across the border in bad weather. Greece’s defence minister has since said that they are being held hostage, a charge Turkey denies.

“Even as he undermines the heritage of Mustafa Kemal, with his restoring Islam to the center of political and social life, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is investing in the great currents that have driven Turkish nationalism for over a century. He managed to turn his own need into a national cause. And it is stunning to see how a whole, sophisticated nation has bent to his will with such ease.

The news on Wednesday that the Dogan news group was being sold to a pro-Erdogan company signaled the fall of perhaps the last citadel of an elite that envisioned Turkey’s ever closer relationship with the West.”   

In response to all of this, European condemnation of Turkish behaviour s falling on deaf ears, says Kostandaras, illustrating the lack of leverage Europe has over Turkey. Indeed, the only country that can exert pressure on Turkey is Russia, as Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin find themselves in a marriage of convenience.

However, as Russia’s relations with the West are at a low ebb, there is little prospect that Russian pressure on Turkey will benefit the West. “As long as this situation continues,” says Kostandaras, “Turkey will be able to act as if in its own. Source

Turkey to send own drilling ship to Cyprus

22 March 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey’s own drilling ship would soon enter the Mediterranean, potentially complicating energy exploration efforts off Cyprus where Turkish warships have blocked a vessel leased by Italian company Eni and U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil is also due to begin its search for large possible gas deposits.

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu said Erdoğan made the comments in a speech referring to Cyprus where he pledged to develop energy resources alongside the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island that Turkish troops invaded in 1974. Turkey is alone in recognising the Turkish Cypriot administration, while the rest of the world recognises the Greek Cypriot government of the Republic of Cyprus as having sovereignty over the whole island.

Turkey says deals between international energy companies and the Republic of Cyprus do not recognise the rights of Turkish Cypriots to a share in the potential wealth and in the decision-making process of how the work should proceed. Cyprus hopes gas finds might spur Turkish Cypriots towards talks to reunite the island.

The U.S. Navy has sent an amphibious assault ship to Cyprus as two exploration vessels leased by ExxonMobil are also docked at the island preparing to drill offshore.

Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told the Guardian: “We cannot accept Turkey interfering and creating problems in what, as underlined by the EU, is a sovereign right to exploit our natural wealth.” Source

U.S. Navy assault ship arrives in Cyprus amid energy row

19 March 2018

U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima docked in the Cypriot port of Limassol on Monday, joining two survey ships leased by U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil that are due to look for offshore energy resources after Turkish warships blocked similar exploration efforts by Italian firm Eni.

Turkey says the exploration for potentially large gas reserves off Cyprus should take into account what it says are the rights of Turkish Cypriots in a breakaway state in the northern third of the island that Turkish troops invaded in 1974.

Turkey is alone in recognising the Turkish Cypriot administration, while the rest of the world recognises the Republic of Cyprus as having sovereignty over the whole of the island.

Iwo Jima is one of the largest amphibious warships in the world, with 2,500 U.S. Navy personnel on board. It carries 30 helicopters and six to eight fighter aircrafts.

Currently, two vessels leased by ExxonMobil are also at Limassol. Ocean Investigator, arrived  at Cyprus on Wednesday. A second vessel, the Med Surveyor, arrived on Thursday. The two ships are due to carry out hydrocarbon exploration in block 10 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Cyprus will continue its search for gas in the Mediterranean despite Turkish opposition, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has said.

The Turkish Navy prevented an exploration vessel leased by Italian energy firm Eni from drilling off Cyprus last month, despite protests from the European Union and the United States.

Reacting to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell’s visit to Cyprus on Friday, Turkey said in a statement that it “demonstrated once more the reasons why negotiations on the Cyprus question remain fruitless”. Source

Exxon ship arrives in Cyprus during standoff with Turkey

14 March 2018

Ocean Investigator, the survey ship of U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, arrived at the island of Cyprus on Wednesday as political tensions with Turkey over gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean persisted.

The ship is due to carry out hydrocarbon exploration in block 10 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A second vessel, the Med Surveyor, will arrive on Thursday, the Cyprus Mail reported .

Exxonmobil plans to carry out exploration ahead of possible drilling in the second half of the year. But Turkey blocked similar efforts by Italian energy company Eni last month, saying Turkish Cypriots in an unrecognised enclave in Cyprus’ north should get an immediate share of the revenue.

U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty said on Wednesday that Washington does not expect Turkey to cause any problems for the two vessels in Cyprus’ EEZ, the Cyprus Mail said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated in a speech on Wednesday that gas exploration off Cyprus should not take place without the involvement of Turkish Cyprus.

Ocean Investigator will remain at Cyprus’ Limassol port until March 24 to load equipment, but it might depart earlier depending on progress, the newspaper reported citing a company official.

Earlier this month, the U.S. military said it had bolstered the presence of its Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, raising speculation that U.S. ships would escort the vessels during their work. Source

U.S. says Turkey won't meddle in Cypriot gas search

14 March 2018

The United States supports the right of internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus to look for oil and gas offshore, U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty said on Wednesday.

Doherty spoke as an exploration vessel leased by U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil docked in the Cypriot port of Limassol in preparation for drilling off the divided island. Turkish warships twice blocked a similar ship leased by Italian energy company Eni this year. Turkey says any energy wealth must be shared with breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island.

"The United States has consistently reiterated its support for the Republic of Cyprus’ right to develop its resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone,” Doherty told a news briefing.

"At the same time, we have noted that we believe the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement,” she said.

According to Kathimerini, the US Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty underlined Washington's support for Nicosia's right to explore and develop oil resources in its economic zone and, regarding Exxon's drilling in the region, said she did not anticipate any problems from Turkey.

Turkey is alone in recognising the breakaway Turkish Cypriot government in the north of the island after invading the area in 1974. The rest of the world recognises the Republic of Cyprus as sovereign over the whole island.

Doherty said “a just and settling settlement” between two communities on the island, would facilitate the development of energy resources and ensure they benefit all Cy Source

Turkey is increasing its presence in the Cyprus offshore

11 March

Detention of two greek soldiers and the geo-strategic rivalry regarding the energy sources of the Mediterranean is continuing to fuel tensions between Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said this week in Ankara that “The natural riches surrounding the island of Cyprus is the common wealth of all the people who live on the island. Yıldırım also added that any provocative efforts for gas exploration in the region will be responded in an “appropriate fashion”.

Today, Ekathimerini reports that ahead of exploration activities by American oil giant Exxon, Turkish authorities have boosted their presence in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), dispatching the frigate Barbaros and three corvettes.

Meanwhile , one of the two ExxonMobil research vessels, Ocean Investigator, departed from Greece on Sunday and is headed towards Limassol port. The second one Med Surveyor is located off port Haifa, on Sunday. Both vessels are scheduled to carry out explorations in block 10 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) untill April 20.

The Greek and Cypriot governments are watching closely the developments in the region, ahead of the meeting of Turkish and the European leaders to take place on March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria. If the tension continues to increase, Greece and Cyprus are likely to veto this meeting. Source

Cyprus to complain to UN over Turkey gas blockade

The Republic of Cyprus is expected to lodge a protest with the United Nations over moves by Turkey to prevent an Italian vessel from exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean.  

Greek media group SKAI reported that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades discussed the matter in a phone call on Tuesday after Turkey had renewed until March 10 a navigational telex (Navtex) that said the site of the potential gas reserves would be used for a military exercise.

The last Navtex was to expire on Thursday. Turkey has used the notice to prevent the Saipem 12000, an exploration vessel belonging to the Italian energy firm ENI, from entering “Block 3” which lies between the island of Cyprus and Egypt.   

Control of the island of Cyprus is split between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey.

Turkey has sought to prevent exploration of gas in waters around the island. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu this month said a deal between Egypt and the Republic of Cyprus to create an exclusive economic zone in waters between the two countries would contravene the “inalienable rights” of Turkish Cypriots to benefit from the island’s resources. Source

Greek Cyprus urges Turkey to end gas standoff, resume talks

Greek Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades urged Turkey on Feb. 21 to lift its blockade of offshore gas exploration that would benefit both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots if the island is reunited.

“The rhetoric by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots is unjustified and unfounded, and it does not serve the best interests of the Cypriot people... The planning of the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus in the field of energy will proceed,” Anastasiades said in a statement.

“I publicly call on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community to immediately respond to my call to return to the negotiating table, provided this is preceded by the termination of the violation of the sovereign rights” of Greek Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he said.

Anastasiades said the island’s untapped energy riches belonged to the state and would be shared with the Turkish Cypriots once the island was reunified.

“Our goal is to fully explore Cyprus’s hydrocarbon potential, in the best terms possible, so as to maximize the benefits for all the people of Cyprus,” he said.

Greek Cyprus is embroiled in a standoff with Turkish warships blocking an Italian drillship from exploring for gas in the divided island’s politically sensitive waters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” in the Mediterranean after Turkey’s warships blocked the Italian vessel.

The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean risks further complicates stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus following the collapse of U.N.-brokered peace talks last year.

Italy’s energy giant ENI said its ship had been ordered to stop by Turkish ships earlier this month over “military activities in the destination area” as it was on course to start exploring in block 3 of EEZ.

Turkish ‘cold-blooded’ stance stops Cyprus gas clash

The “cold-blooded approach” of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus is preventing a conflict over the unilaterla exploitation of gas reserves by Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kudret Özersay said.

The Greek Cypriot government will no longer be permitted to continue with natural gas exploration without the permission of Turkish Cyprus, he said , according to Hurriyet Daily News.

“They cannot continue before the Cyprus issue is settled, or, if it would not be possible, without reaching an understanding with the Turkish Cypriot side,” Özersay said in a written statement on Monday.

“Unfortunately, Greek Cyprus’ membership to the EU occurred in the same manner. We are intent on not allowing a similar development to take place on the issue of natural gas,” he said, according to the newspaper.

The ethnic Greek part of Cyprus joined the European Union on May 1, 2004 without the Turkish Cypriot community in the north of the island after Greek Cypriots voted against uniting the island in a public referendum approved by the Turkish side.

Natural gas exploration off the island has become a point of contention with both Greeks and Turks laying claim to undersea territories where the gas is present. Source

U.S. giant Exxon sending two drilling ships to Cyprus

The US oil giant ExxonMobil announced that plans to send two surveying vessels to Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone despite the ongoing dispute, which also extends to the waters around Cyprus.

Turkey’s naval blockade near Cyprus continued preventing the Italian energy company Eni from drilling in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone for the seventh consecutive day yesterday. Reuters quoted Claudio Descalzi, Eni CEO, saying about the situation; “It’s not really under our control." Source

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