One day after a US firm started drilling for natural gas in the seabed south of Cyprus, the prime minister of neighboring Turkey on Wednesday attacked Nicosia – and its project partner Israel – for what he dubbed as their ?madness for an oil search.?
Responding to the move, Turkey went on to carve out its marine borders with authorities in the occupied north of the divided island to conduct its own energy explorations in the area.
?The Greek-Cypriot administration and Israel are engaging in oil exploration madness in the Mediterranean,? Anatolia quoted Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying in New York ahead of a UN meeting.
The Turkish premier upped the ante, saying that ?our assault boats and frigates are already in the region.? But a senior US official who wished to remain nameless told Kathimerini that Erdogan assured US President Barack Obama that Ankara has no intention of escalating the situation further.
EU member Cyprus is drilling for hydrocarbons in the so-called Block 12 area after delineating an exclusive economic zone with neighbors Israel and Egypt. Turkey, whose relations with Israel have soured recently, claims that no drilling must be allowed before a peace settlement is reached on Cyprus. The EU, US and Russia have all given Nicosia the green light.
In what many analysts have rejected as a pretext, Erdogan rehashed warnings that developments threatened to derail efforts to reunite the island.
?The Greek-Cypriot administration?s drilling activity is nothing but sabotage of the negotiation process between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots,? he said.