The second Turkish drillship that will be dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Yavuz, will be protected by frigates, according to comments Friday by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who reiterated that Ankara will protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots regarding drilling and exploration in the region.
“Our Turkish kin in northern Cyprus are entitled to the same rights as the people in southern Cyprus, especially on matters such as oil in the Eastern Mediterranean," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anadolu Agency.
His remarks also coincided with comments by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy Friday that offshore drilling activities will soon be conducted in areas licensed by Turkish Cypriots in the occupied north of Cyprus to the Turkish Petroleum Research Association.
However, these areas make up a large part of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 13.
Turkey reportedly wants the Yavuz to be ready to set sail from Istanbul before the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral elections on June 23. But analysts say this is more likely to occur closer to the Greek national election on July 7.
Before Aksoy’s comments, US Ambassador to Cyprus Judith Garber expressed Washington’s deep concerns over Turkey’s intentions.
Her remarks came on the heels of calls issued to Turkey in recent days by senior American officials – Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer and State Department Director at the Office of Southern European Affairs Yuri Kim – to desist from illegal activities within Cyprus’ EEZ.
Earlier Friday, Cyprus said it had reached a deal with international companies on the distribution of revenues from natural gas exploitation in the Aphrodite field in its EEZ.
Meanwhile, US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan met Friday in Washington with Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis after a near-collision between a Russian destroyer and a US Navy ship in the Philippine Sea which the US blamed on Moscow.
Asked if there were any similarities between the Russian destroyer’s moves and Turkey’s behavior in the East Med, Shanahan reportedly said there was, but cautioned against tying the two behaviors.