Turkish Navy authorized over oil crisis with Greek Cyprus
Naval Forces Commander Adm Bülent Bostanoğlu arrives on board the TCG Büyükada in a helicopter for a briefing during the Blue Whale military drill. The Turkish navy has been authorized to act on the crisis in Cyprus, Bostanoğlu said.The Turkish Navy has been authorized by the government for the full implementation of recently amended rules of engagement in the eastern Mediterranean in the face of growing tension between littoral countries, including Turkey, Greek Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over oil and natural gas drilling projects.
“The Prime Ministry handed over the rules of engagement to the Chief of General Staff and the Chief of Staff handed them over to the Naval Forces Command. We will act in line with these rules of engagement in the event we face a situation over this issue,” Adm. Bülent Bostanoğlu, the naval forces commander, told reporters Nov. 9 in Muğla as he participated in the Blue Whale-2014 naval exercise.
“Our naval forces elements will continue their mission of situational awareness in the region.”
Bostanoğlu’s statement came after a question on which rules of engagement the Turkish Navy would follow if Turkish vessels confront Greek or Israeli warships in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tension between Turkey and the Greek Cyprus-Greece duo has increased recently after the Greek Cypriot government issued licenses for oil and natural gas exploration in its claimed economic exclusive zones in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey strongly criticized the move, saying it was a clear breach of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots’ rights and sent a seismic exploration vessel to the region for its own drilling purposes and one warship for the surveillance of foreign platform vessels being used for oil exploration.
“The Turkish Naval Forces is providing support and close protection to the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Research Vessel. On the other hand, it continues to keep the drill ship hired by the Greek Cypriot administration under surveillance from nine kilometers’ distance. The order given to us for the moment is not to enter into this nine-kilometer area. That’s why no incident of harassment or disturbance has occurred,” he said.
The Turkish naval commander said the ongoing Blue Whale exercise had nothing to do with ongoing tension and that it was a biannual exercise whose preparations started two years ago. “The objective of the exercise is to improve cooperation with our allies and particularly to perform anti-submarine defense operations,” he said.
The tension between Turkey and Greek Cyprus has recently turned into a regional one as the latter took advantage of the former’s worsening relations with Egypt and Israel, which both have similar claims in the eastern Mediterranean. Greek, Greek Cypriot and Egyptian leaders came together at a tripartite summit in Cairo where they discussed regional security and economic cooperation.
Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Nov. 8 accused Turkey of “provocative actions” that he said Ankara was hindering the island’s peace talks and compromising security in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Turkey’s provocative actions do not just compromise the peace talks, but also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region,” Anastasiades said at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
“For the [Cyprus peace] negotiations to succeed, Turkey needs to show a positive intention and adopt a constructive stance through positive and effective steps in this direction,” he said.
Ankara issued a notice that a Turkish seismic vessel would carry out a survey until Dec. 30 in the same area where the Italian-Korean energy consortium ENI-Kogas is operating. Ankara opposes the Greek Cypriot government’s exploitation of offshore energy reserves before a deal is reached to solve the decades-long division of the east Mediterranean island.