Ankara stirs the pot in East Med, Aegean

Ankara stirs the pot in East Med, Aegean

As Ankara insists on its aim of drilling in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), despite vehement objections by the European Union, another Turkish official scaled up tensions further over the weekend, calling on Cyprus to “remember 1974,” referring to Turkey’s invasion of the island.

“It would be good for Anastasiades to remember 1974 and keep it fresh in his memory,” the spokesman of Turkey’s ruling AKP party, Omer Celik, said on Saturday, referring to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The invasion in 1974, he said, had been aimed at “protecting the lives, rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots.”

The remark appeared to be a response to a comment by Anastasiades earlier in the week, saying that Turkey drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ would be tantamount to a new invasion of the island.

Celik said two Turkish vessels were “involved in activities” off Cyprus “and our naval forces are protecting them.” He also criticized Greek and Cypriot leaders for “signing deals with countries that have problems with Turkey,” in an apparent reference to Israel.

Rhetoric by Turkish officials intensified last week as Cypriot officials said that talks were progressing with French-Italian consortium Total and ENI for an exploration license for Block 7 in Cyprus’ EEZ.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weighed in with a speech to Turkish cadets on Thursday, referring to “increasing attempts to violate our rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.”

“You will give a response of steel to any threat to an inch of our borders but also beyond our borders,” he told the cadets.

His comments came as European Union officials expressed their support for Cyprus in the drilling dispute with Turkey. European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU “stands united” behind Cyprus, adding that the bloc “expects Turkey to respect the sovereign rights” of a member nation.

Tensions are expected to rise further in the region over the coming months as Ankara has announced its intention to send the research vessel Oruc Reis to an area south of Kastellorizo in the southern Aegean, which Greece has already reserved for submarine exercise.

Greece has issued a notification reserving a large area between Kastellorizo, Rhodes and Karpathos for the exercise, which is to run from mid-August until mid-September. Ankara subsequently issued its own notification for the same area. 

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