NEWS

Ankara renews East Med escalation

New gas exploration planned in Cyprus EEZ as Turkey seeks to put the squeeze on Nicosia

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The latest request to Turkey’s Energy Ministry for new licensing of explorations by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) in the Eastern Mediterranean, and in particular in the area between southern Turkey and Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, is seen as a substantial new escalation by Ankara and a bid to mount the pressure on the Republic of Cyprus.

The area in question includes not only parts of the territorial waters of Turkey, but also a significant part of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coast of the northern, occupied, part of the island.

Reliable sources have noted that, at this stage, it is estimated that only seismic surveys will be carried out rather than drilling. 

The move is also seen as a prelude to the fiesta prepared in the occupied territories ahead of the visit there by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 20, on the anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The festivities are expected to focus on the fenced-off town of Varosha.

For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said he was “sorry to say that I have not seen tangible evidence of a change in both Turkey’s behavior and its beliefs.” He also said that he is waiting to see the results of Erdogan’s visit to Cyprus on July 20.

Dendias also called for a greater American presence in the region, noting, among other things, that “it is the only country in the world” that can explain to Turkey that human rights and the rule of law are the only way forward.

Meanwhile, signaling Turkey’s intentions with regard to Cyprus and the occupied territories, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay reiterated that Turkey, as a “mother country,” supports a two-state solution for the island.

“Our country does not distinguish its own rights and interests from the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean. We will not back down from this decisive stance. If negotiations are to take place again this will not be between two communities but only with two states,” he said, adding that “the two states are equal, they are sovereign, they are independent.”

What’s more, Erdogan is expected to revisit a Turkish proposal on his visit to Cyprus for the return of Greek Cypriots to Famagusta under Turkish-Cypriot rule.