In a further escalation of tensions with Cyprus, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has ruled out any possibility that Ankara will give up its guarantor status on the island and said that it will continue its illegal drilling activities there.
Turkey, Akar said, is a guarantor power on Cyprus and “will continue to use this right as it has in the past.”
He also warned that Turkey’s armed forces are ready to do “what is necessary” to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots. “The Turkish Armed Forces, like 45 years ago when they carried out the peace operation [1974 invasion], are close to the Turkish Cypriots and are determined to defend their rights and interests.”
The system of guarantees was established when the island gained independence from Britain in 1960 and Greece, Turkey and Britain were designated as guarantor powers.
Greece and Cyprus, both European Union member-states, have long called for an end to the system, describing it as anachronistic.
However, Akar said that the effort to get rid of Turkish guarantees was “futile.” He made his remarks during a reception celebrating “Turkish Armed Forces Day,” which also marked 468 years since the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus in 1571 and 61 years since the founding of the Turkish Cypriot paramilitary group TMT. Turkey established its military presence on Cyprus after its invasion and occupation of the island’s northern part in 1974.
Moreover, Akar added that Turkey has begun drilling within what he called its continental shelf off the coast of Cyprus and that it will continue doing so in accordance with what he called international law.
He said Turkey has shown in the last 10 years that it is determined to proceed with its plans in the Eastern Mediterranean. Those who object to its actions, he added, would benefit from understanding this as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, in comments regarding Turkey’s purported plan to drill within Greek territorial waters off the island of Kastellorizo, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Thursday that Greece is prepared.
“We are aware of these scenarios and the Defense Ministry is preparing ways to deal with the possibility that a Turkish research vessel appears in our territorial waters,” he told Thema 104.6 radio. “In any case, I can reassure you that we will not sit idly by.”