Gassy issues in Cyprus
The Eastern Mediterranean might be rich in regards to natural gas and oil, however, aside from Israel’s Leviathan gas field, no economically viable or commercially feasible resource has been found so far. Hopes had been high from certain plots, headed by the Greek Cypriot Aphrodite, yet so far, problems have surmounted all potentials pointing at one fundamental reality: In the absence of a political settlement on Cyprus, petrochemical riches can only produce additional headache.
Going into detail, talking about Plot 6, Plot 3 and Turkey’s own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and how it overlapped with that of the unilaterally declared Greek Cypriot EEZ might add some flesh to the discussion. Yet, at the very root of the problem lies a fundamental and far bigger issue than the overlapping EEZs of Turkey and the Greek Cypriots. Tomorrow, there might be a similar crisis between Turkey and Greece over how the EEZ of each country should be defined. Expecting international law to surrender to the rule of the powerful might be possible, but such a situation cannot be sustainable, particularly if not only the Greek Cypriots but Turkey also starts to confront the precious allies over Eastern Mediterranean resources.
Relations between Ankara and the EU have been in de facto deep freeze for some time. Aside from the Syrian refugees and some pressing urgent needs, contact between Ankara and the EU has become rather symbolic. Fundamental norms and values that make the EU or Western civilization have been on the death bed in Turkey for a long time. Freedom of the press, freedom of expression, compatibility with international norms in justice, accountability and such have unfortunately become no further than a fairy tale in this country.
For example, if Deutche Welle’s reporter Deniz Yücel had been a spy as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the prosecutor had alleged, then how had it been that two days after Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım heralded the possibility, the reporter who had been charged with espionage and who had faced up to 18 years in prison, had not only been released but had been allowed to travel to Germany onboard a special plane? Had there been a trade? Had there been an exchange of spies? Had Turkey, for example, convinced Germany to release the Turkish spies there?
Turkish military vessels blocking ENI from approaching Plot 3 has caused fresh tension. Turkey claims the plot is partly within its own EEZ. This situation will have some serious repercussions. European Council President Donald Tusk’s warning that Turkey should “avoid threats or actions against any EU member” and instead “must commit to good neighborly relations, peaceful dispute settlement and respect for territorial sovereignty” might indeed herald an approaching storm.
What will Turkey do, for example, when ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum start exploration activities in Greek Cypriot Plot 10, which is not a disputed area by Turkey but still opposed by Ankara on grounds that it violates the rights of Turkish Cypriots? Would Turkey use its navy to stop ExxonMobil, of which Rex Tillerson had been CEO and board chairman of before he had become the United States Secretary of State?
Turkey might be right in its reaction to unilateral Greek Cypriot actions violating the inalienable partnership rights of Turkish Cypriots on (and of course off) Cyprus but resorting to the use of force should be the last tool. Why, for example, all through the previous round of Cyprus talks, such provocations had either been left unanswered or had been responded to with shallow and empty statements of condemnation?
Greek Cypriots now say that as long as Turkey continues its “provocation” and threat to use force, talks cannot resume. The United Nations and the EU consider Turkey’s actions totally disgusting. Shouldn’t Ankara, for a change, wake up and ask the U.N. and the EU, where they had been when the founding agreements of Cyprus, the original constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and the spirit of negotiations had all been violated with unilateral Greek Cypriot actions?