Turkish Cyprus pledges ‘retaliation’ in gas row
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has called on the Greek Cypriot administration to avoid moves that would raise tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, pledging retaliation. Akıncı was referring to unilateral moves by Greek Cypriot to search for gas off the divided island.
“We have told the Greek Cyprus administration ‘Let’s establish a joint commission for cooperation.’ But, unfortunately, they did not approach establishing a committee or planning this issue together and have continued their unilateral action. We have told them, ‘If this [unilateral gas search] is done this way, you leave no choice to Turkish Cyprus and Turkey to act in the same way,’” Akıncı said on June 11 during a ceremony in the Turkish Cyprus city of Kyrenia (“Girne” in Turkish).
“We have told them [the Greek Cyprus administration], ‘If you are doing [a gas] search, we’ll similarly do so, and we are. We have told them, ‘If you come to the drilling stage, we will also come to that stage, and we will also drill,’ and now we are that point,” he said.
“The richness in the Eastern Mediterranean belong to all of us, and this is accepted. But when the issue comes to drilling, we come across with a Greek side that says, ‘Here is our area of sovereignty,” Akıncı said.
Akıncı’s comments followed reports that the Greek Cypriot administration issued an international arrest warrant for 25 people including the personnel of the Turkish drillship, Fatih, and officials from companies cooperating with the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO).
The drillship Fatih launched its offshore drilling operations on May 3 in an area located 75 kilometers (around 41 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island.
“The Eastern Mediterranean can come to be a lake of peace, a peace basin. Everyone would benefit from this. We do not want a politics of tension, a politics of conflict. We want peace and reconciliation, but I am saying all these with the determination of protecting our rights,” Akıncı said.
Turkey ‘to continue drilling activities'
Meanwhile, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said on June 11 that the drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea region will continue, and legal and political measures were taken with the relevant ministries for preventing third-party interference that ignores Turkey’s international sovereignty.
Dönmez said in a statement that Turkey will not allow any violations of the rights of the Turkish Cyprus and Cypriot Turks.
“We will continue our efforts to achieve regional peace by distributing the riches of Cyprus Island and the Mediterranean in a fair manner,” Dönmez said.
“Our extensive and long-term exploration and drilling activities in the region will resume as planned without making concessions to our legitimate rights on license areas,” he said.
“The drillship Yavuz will also begin its operations in the region where the preparations are completed,” the minister also said.
Dönmez said that the Greek Cypriot administration’s attitude lacks legal ground.
“Our activities in licensed and legal areas will continue without any delay despite the statements of the Greek Cypriots and the threats of so-called arrest warrants for our drilling ship Fatih’s crew.”
“Turkey never surrenders to any threats, and it never will,” Dönmez added.