Cypriot diplomatic sources believe that Nicosia’s decision last month to issue arrest warrants in response to the illegal presence of Turkey’s Fatih drillship in the Eastern Mediterranean island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is paying off.
The warrants were issued against companies, company executives and crew who are involved in the operations of the Fatih in the island’s EEZ without the explicit or implicit consent of the government of the Republic of Cyprus.
Even though Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu again brushed off the issue of the arrest warrants Friday, sources say that they are now causing problems for foreign staff and companies working on the drillship.
“They had Norwegian staff. The Norwegians stopped and now they have Turks,” the sources said.
Under Cypriot law, the direct or indirect participation of any company in activities in Cyprus’ EEZ without Nicosia’s explicit consent constitutes a serious criminal offense, with penalties of over 1 million euros and/or five-year prison terms.
However, Cavusoglu upped the ante Friday, insisting that any energy deal struck by Cyprus excluding Ankara is “invalid.”
“We will not back down and we will take all the necessary steps... the Greek Cypriots should know their limits,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile it remains unclear if the Fatih, which is located 36.6 nautical miles off the Akamas peninsula in western Cyprus, has actually begun drilling activities.
Turkey, which plans to send another drillship to the area in July, has shunned the opposition voiced by the international community, especially Washington and the European Union.
Ankara insists that part of Cyprus’ EEZ belongs to Turkey’s continental shelf and has accused Nicosia of exploiting the island’s natural energy reserves without consulting Turkish Cypriots.