Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy has once again upped the ante with Cyprus, warning that Ankara will “give the necessary response” if Nicosia “dares” to arrest employees of the Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih that is currently conducting drilling activities off the island’s west coast.
His remarks, cited in Turkish media Monday, came in response to the issue of international arrest warrants by Nicosia for employees of the drillship and officials of companies which cooperate with the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) for conducting illegal activities within the island’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Aksoy questioned the warrants’ validity, saying they were issued by Cyprus on the grounds that it owns the sea area in question. He said the claim is not based on international law. For this reason, he added, “we will also initiate the necessary counter-legal processes together with our related institutions.”
Turkey claims that parts of Cyprus’ EEZ belong to its continental shelf and that Ankara will, according to Aksoy, “continue maintaining petrol and natural gas exploration/drilling works as planned in order to protect the rights of Turkey’s own continental shelf and the rights of Turkish Cypriots, who are the equal partners of the island.”
Brussels and Washington have repeatedly urged Ankara to refrain from illegal activities within Cyprus’ EEZ. But calls are growing in Turkey for more drastic action against Cyprus, with retired admiral Cem Gurdeniz proposing in a commentary published in the Yeni Safak paper that Ankara should recall its ambassador to the EU, shut down crossing points between the Cyprus government-controlled areas of the island and the northern occupied part, and dispatch a second Turkish drillship to blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the island’s EEZ.