In defiance of international law, Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez on Friday announced that the Yavuz vessel would be conducting new drilling operations in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus.
“We continue our work in the Mediterranean. Nobody should think that we stopped, that we took a break,” he said, while also referring to the Oruc Reis and Barbaros seismic vessels, which “continue their work in various parts of the Mediterranean.”
The Navtex for the Barbaros was extended until February 2021, he said, and that of the Oruc Reis, which is south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, expires on November 23.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to travel on Sunday to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, where he will visit the city of Varosha to “have a picnic” on a coastal strip that was recently opened up in violation of relevant United Nations resolutions. The city had been fenced off and abandoned since its some 40,000 Greek-Cypriot residents fled to safety during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
Meanwhile, a US State Department official confirmed on Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will only meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios and other religious leaders during his visit to Istanbul in the coming days.
The official said Pompeo’s schedule is “tight” and Turkish officials will not be available, adding that there will be “plenty of opportunities” to meet with them and discuss issues such as Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 missile system. Nonetheless, Pompeo’s decision not to meet with Turkish officials on this occasion was seen as a snub by Ankara.
The talks between Pompeo and Vartholomaios are part of a seven-nation tour on November 13-23. According to a State Department press release, the talks are aimed at discussing “religious issues in Turkey and the region and to promote our strong stance on religious freedom around the world.”