Turkey warns Cyprus against offshore gas drilling

Cyprus gas fields

Cyprus offshore gas fields

In a sign that Turkey is intent on stirring up trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has warned Cyprus against proceeding with offshore oil and gas drilling activities, saying:

it would finalize an agreement with Turkish Cypriots to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration.

The undersea boundary has been among the most contentious issues in Greek-Turkish relations, with each country trying to mark out where on the continental shelf it can exploit seabed oil and mineral deposits in the Aegean Sea.

A move by Turkey to declare such a border would aggravate relations with Greece and Cyprus, which is divided into an EU-member Greek south and a breakaway Turkish north.

The announcement by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry came a day after Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias announced that U.S. firm Noble Energy will soon begin exploratory drilling to confirm deposits beneath the sea bed off Cyprus’ southern coast despite Turkey’s attempts to prevent such a move.

Turkey insists that Cyprus has no right to go ahead with the search before a settlement to reunify the divided island can be reached. It has warned Cyprus against pursuing “adventurist policies,” and said Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in how the island’s oil-and-gas rights are used.

That’s rich, coming from Turkey who invaded Cyprus in 1974, ethnically cleansing the Greek-Cypriot population from the north of the island, who to this day cannot return to their homes.

The involvement of the Noble Energy could further complicate matters for Turkey, a U.S. ally. Cyprus has licensed Noble to search for fossil fuels near two significant gas discoveries in its Israeli offshore blocks.

A very interesting detail emerges from one tiny sentence in the article:

Cyprus has also signed agreements with Lebanon and Egypt to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration, prompting Turkey to urge those two countries to scrap the deals.

This could hopefully bode well for Israel too, since it could remove any clash of interest over border demarcations regarding their offshore gas drilling as well.

The US is trying to be neutral but is finding it hard since Noble Energy is an American company. The US is also very much in favour of developing alternative energy sources which are not dependent on Middle East oil. Therefore title of this Hurriyet article is a little misleading: The US backs up Greek Cyprus in gas-drilling row – it does back them up, but in a rather faint-hearted way.

The Greek Cypriot administration’s plans for natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean has received a nod from the U.S. administration.

The U.S. choice not to take a clear stance in the drilling row, despite its deep involvement in the Cyprus reunification talks and the Texas-based Nobel Energy, which holds 100 percent of the unexplored Block 12, an economic zone southeast of the island, puts Americans in the middle of the intense spat.

In a three-point statement I received from the State Department on Wednesday, the U.S. administration states that it is aware of Turkey’s position on the issue, and reiterated its commitment ‘’to support strongly the efforts of both Cypriot parties to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.’’ However, as a final point, the U.S. administration underscored that it views the plans in terms of ‘’securing energy supplies through better energy diversity’’ and that ‘’is something that the United States strongly supports for all countries.’’

The U.S. perceives the Greek Cypriot drilling plans, which could reportedly “sustain the energy need in Europe for the next 100 years,” in terms of an alternative energy source for its European allies to help gaining energy independence, despite fierce Turkish objections.

The UN, true to form, is calling for calm in the Cyprus drilling row.

The United Nations on Friday called for a peaceful resolution to a growing dispute between Turkey and Greek Cyprus over offshore gas and oil exploration, saying any finds should benefit both sides of the divided island.

“It should be understood that natural resources, if they are discovered, would be for the benefit of all Cypriots – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – under the framework of a federal united Cyprus,” said Lisa Buttenheim, special representative of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who heads the U.N. peacekeeping mission on the island.

“The United Nations would appeal to all involved to resolve this matter in a peaceful manner,” she said.

Considering that Turkey and Cyprus have still not resolved the division of the island, it is not clear how the UN expects this row to be resolved peacefully. In any event the Greek Cypriots feel safe enough to declare:

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said Friday that the international community has afforded Cyprus political protection for the search for mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone, which is near to sizable gas finds within Israeli waters. “At this moment, we have a very satisfactory shield of political support over these actions,” she told state radio.

Turkey looks like it might have bitten off more than it can chew. They have requested help from the EU in averting a crisis in the gas-drilling row, but the EU is not appearing very helpful to Turkey.

Turkey’s ambassador to the EU has said member states should urge Cyprus to “see reason” in order to stop a dispute over gas exploration from getting worse.

“Europe, which has an interest in this, should say to the Greek Cypriot authorities that it is inadvisable to raise the stakes, because they are raising the stakes. We are not the ones who started exploration in disputed waters … the EU can tell the Greek Cypriots they have to be reasonable,” Selim Kuneralp told EUobserver in an interview on Monday (12 September).

If those words sound slightly sinister, consider this implicit threat:

Asked by EUobserver if Turkey would use warships to stop Noble from going ahead if necessary, Kuneralp said: “I hope it will not come to that and the Greek Cypriots will see reason … I didn’t mention warships. I think it’s better to hope that reason will prevail.”

An offer they’ll find hard to refuse, no doubt.

For its part, Cyprus has in recent months lobbied EU friends to make sure the gas operation goes ahead.

German EU energy commissioner Gunther Oetteinger in a statement earlier this month said: “The EU urges Turkey to refrain from any kind of threat, sources of friction or action which could negatively affect good neighbourly relations”. Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis in August said it is Cyprus’ “sovereign right” to go ahead.

He made clear that the bad feeling between Ankara and Nicosia will see EU-Turkey relations put on hold when Cyprus takes over the rotating EU presidency in late 2012, however.

Speaking of warships, again it looks like Turkey has overstepped its mark even with the IHH terrorist organization that planned the Mavi Marmara flotilla:

Early reactions to Turkey’s hawkish Gaza policy from the NGOs which planned the ill-fated 2010 operation indicate that it might have misjudged the situation.

Speaking to EUobserver on Monday, Izzet Sahin, a spokesman for the Turkey-based IHH, the main group behind the 2010 mission, said Turkish warships might in future escort Turkish government aid vessels but that his NGO wants to keep clear lines of division between charity work and regional politics.

“As an NGO, we did not ask for this kind of escort or help last time because we are independent. As an NGO we co-operate with other NGOs but not states. States have their own agendas,” he said.

When both the EU and US reject your stance, and when even your own terrorist organizations reject your help, surely it is time for Turkey to reconsider its own belligerent pose with regard to Cyprus, Greece and Israel.

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14 Responses to Turkey warns Cyprus against offshore gas drilling

  1. Andrea says:

    Dear Anne,

    Erdogan is playing a very difficut game. When Turkey invaded Cyprus NATO turned his back to Greece. At the time Greece was a supporter of Palestinian cause and Israel had strong ties with Ankara. Athens was left alone for years.
    Israel sold 10 drones to Ankara few years ago – drones used to kill 180 Kurds . Now it seems that the drones do not work very well anymore but Israelis technicians were forced to live Turkey.
    Erdoagan faces realpolitik not moral issues ( there are not moral issues in Middle east ) – he came to Cairo troubling muslims brotherhood, now is in Lybia troubling French neo colonialism. The purpose is to replace Islmism by Ottomanism. A difficult game but he could succed at the end.
    Israel is a pretext.

    On the other hand Tel Aviv/Jerusalem can not have moral issues against Ankara. After all Israel was really aware about Armnians, Curds and Cypriots oppressin but accepted for a long time. The drones are still there and needs to be repaired.

    best regards

    Andrea

    • anneinpt says:

      Those are extremely interesting points Andrea. Thank you for raising them. I came across some of this history when I was researching this post, and I also clearly remember the days when Turkey was Israel’s “best friend” and Greece was definitely on the Palestinian side.

      Israel has had a big dilemma for a long time about recognizing the Armenian genocide. On the one hand they didn’t want to antagonize Turkey but on the other hand how could a nation who had suffered under the Holocaust ignore such a terrible genocide? It still hasn’t completely been resolved. The same principal applies to the persecution of the Kurds and Cypriots. So in the end it all comes down to realpolitik – Israel is a small isolated country and needs to accept its allies wherever it can find them. It is often unpleasant, even hypocritical, but sadly that is the real world we live in. I wish it could be different.

      Recently, now that Erdogan has taken Turkey on a completely different course, antagonising Greece in the process, he has managed to make an enemy of Israel and Greece. Again, this is realpolitik, so Israel and Greece have now become friends because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. And now Israel has the chance to defend the Kurds and the Cypriots. No one knows how long this will last of course, but as I said, we have to make our friends where we can find them.

  2. Danny Brode says:

    Anne,

    Very good post. It is nice to see other strategy and security blogs relating to Israel. Keep up the good work!

    Danny Brode

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for the compliment Danny and welcome to my blog.

      By the way the url link in your name above does not work. I found your blog through your gravatar profile, and it looks very interesting.

  3. Uli says:

    Sorry Guys you all soo Naiv. Turkey is the only Country to bring in the Region rules for Peace!
    The History after Ottoman show us Bloody ME! Turkey became the next Regional Superpower. (George Friedman) Israel used fully the Victim Credit Card. Now you are in Debt. to kill Palastines and Gaza Strip (Warshaw Jews Ghetto) Jews learn it from old German Nazi’s. Lieberman is a Nazi, because he is surename is German ( he ist from German Secret Service SS) Dont Forget many Jews living in N.Y. and Israel are Saved from Ottoman Sultan 200000 Jews escape (Spanish Inquisition) Mybe you are only now existing, because Help of Turks.

    • anneinpt says:

      You are very funny Uli. Turkey is not the only country to bring peace to the region. Turkey is actually the country who is just itching to bring the region to war, and is doing everything in its power to heat up the place.

      Your history also shows a huge hole in your education. After the Ottoman Empire Turkey became nothing more than the “sick man of Europe”. They lost everything after the British beat them in 1917.

      As for the rest of what you wrote – how dare you compare Israel and the Jews to the Nazis! That just shows you for what you are – an outright antisemitic Nazi.

      Comparing the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw Ghetto is a classic trope of the antisemites. Tell me – did the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto have hundreds of truckloads of food, medicine and fuel shipped in by the Germans every day? Did the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto have country clubs, swimming pools, hotels and restaurants? Did they have international observers and UNWRA-run schools? Did the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto shoot missiles and send suicide bombers against the Germans?

      As for our Foreign Minister, Lieberman is a Russian Jew with a German name because his parents were probably expelled by your beloved Nazis. He has found a home in Israel with his fellow Jews. If he saw what you wrote here, he could sue you for slander.

      (he ist from German Secret Service SS)

      I wonder how he managed that since he wasn’t even born during the Second World War. Ah, I forgot, Jews rule time too and they can do things even before they were born. Those devious Jews!

      Dont Forget many Jews living in N.Y. and Israel are Saved from Ottoman Sultan 200000 Jews escape (Spanish Inquisition)

      . You are absolutely right there – what a shame that Turkey is now trying to undo all the good that they once did. The Jews of Turkey are fleeing now, did you know? How will Turkey fare once its Jewish population is gone? History shows us that when the Jews are gone, the country goes downhill very fast.

      Mybe you are only now existing, because Help of Turks.

      No, I am alive first because of the British who took in my parents before WWII, those British who beat the Turkish Ottomans in 1917. Funny how history comes full circle. And now I live in the State of Israel which rescues Jews from all around the world – including your warlike Turkey.

      • Uli says:

        Hi Anne,

        i gues you misunderstude me, who was they kill unwapened 8 turks and 1 US citizen?

        Israel Special forces, who give Order to entering this ship in international sea?

        The attack a Mavi Marmara shows the real UGLY Face of Israel in the Region.

        Israel Support all so Hamas that he must to attack Israel, because your Gouvernement Live from Confrontation and terrorand not from PEACE.

        Its Time to make the Region Peachfully even against Israel Stupid Goverment.

        Israel must learn to be respectfully to her Neigbors or the Turks will teach them as well.

        Israel has no chance in the region and in future as troublemaker.

        Israel answer all time with KILL.

        EUROPA and USA is Bankcrypty, so the Sick men of EUROPE are now Healty and strong, but EUROPE and US Get SICK. Israel are all so SICK.

        • anneinpt says:

          i gues you misunderstude me, who was they kill unwapened 8 turks and 1 US citizen?

          The 9 people who were killed were all on the Mavi Marmara, the one ship in the flotilla which refused to heed the IDF’s warnings. All the other ships arrived safely in port with no one hurt. The Mavi Marmara had many weapons on board, this is documented, so you are lying. You can read all my posts on the flotilla. Go and look them up for yourself.

          Israel Special forces, who give Order to entering this ship in international sea?

          The orders came from the Israeli government according to international law, as ratified in the UN Palmer Report.

          The attack a Mavi Marmara shows the real UGLY Face of Israel in the Region.

          We honestly don’t care what you think of us. As long as you fear and respect us that’s all that matters..

          Israel Support all so Hamas that he must to attack Israel, because your Gouvernement Live from Confrontation and terrorand not from PEACE.

          That’s very funny. Have you read the Hamas charter? Who is shooting missiles daily at whom? It is Hamas shooting at Israel.

          Its Time to make the Region Peachfully even against Israel Stupid Goverment.

          Not worthy of comment.

          Israel must learn to be respectfully to her Neigbors or the Turks will teach them as well.

          Since when was Turkey a neighbour of Israel? Who asked Turkey go get involved in a matter which is none of their business? Should Israel send aid flotillas to the Kurds? Hmm, not a bad idea…

          Israel has no chance in the region and in future as troublemaker.

          Yeah, well they’ve been saying that for 100 years. Carry on with your wishful thinking…

          Israel answer all time with KILL.

          Rubbish. Israel only attacks when it is attacked. Otherwise it would have been permanently at war instead of having peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

          EUROPA and USA is Bankcrypty, so the Sick men of EUROPE are now Healty and strong, but EUROPE and US Get SICK. Israel are all so SICK.

          Israel has one of the strongest economies in the world. Turkey is going downhill fast

  4. Uli says:

    Anne,

    once more we all Turks or Ottomans does not Hate Jews or Israel Citizen. What Turkey want to stop Hurting each other in the Region. We will travel each other Country’s like a Europe.
    Anyway No Once win a War! So we hope that you Citizen Wake up like Arab Spring Revolution and elect a new Gouvernement. USA are not willing to save you for ever in this Region, so Israel must stop violence and vote for Palestinian State by UN. Kepp Peace and Work for Peace.

    Turks are not Israels Enemy!

    • anneinpt says:

      Uli, I know, all Israelis know, that the Turks do not hate the Jews or Israelis at heart, and I’m very glad of that. One day when things have calmed down we can all travel to each other’s countries like we used to only a few months ago.

      As for electing a new government, the same can be said of Turkey. Each country is a democracy and each will elect the government they think is best for their country. The US will continue to back Israel because Israel is a strategic asset for America – just like Turkey is. This has nothing to do with voting for a Palestinian state. Please see my posts on this subject for more details.

      “Turks are not Israels Enemy!”
      Amen. Neither is Israel Turkey’s enemy. It was Turkey who started this fight and it will only end when Turkey decides it is finished. You had better have a word with Mr. Erdogan about it.

  5. A.S. says:

    I am deeply saddened by what the politicians have been doing to Turkey. After 1955 Istanbul massacre and placement of rapists, killers, perverts in mainly Greek populated Islands south of Dardanelles that caused Greek popolation to relocate, similar events are again staged, like the murder of Armenian . I had many Jewish and Greek friends in Istanbul and was sorry to see most of them leave because of hatred and ridiculous our-glorious-Ottoman-heritage attitude of generations educated by pro-islamic education system that has been continuously under development after death of Mustafa Kemal that voted for Erdogan. What Ottomans did was to have 8 million Turks fight all the time, plundering others, even Turkish states much more advanced in many areas than themselves, once 2 million Turks were massacred because they hadn’t accepted the same religioun or the sect. Now Turkey has more than $500 billions debt paid by selling off national assets at much below their real values. Running out of options with millions of jobless young generation, brain power leaving the country, fundamentalists taking over everything, legal system under ruling party control, military last to go and about to topple, Turkey is a time bomb in the region. People able to see all this like myself is in the minority. However, I blame these outside powers that supported the fundamentalists in power now, with naive democratic country ideas. How can you give the opportunity to these with dreams of Ottoman past in a country that doesn’t have a modern education system, spewing out hundreds of thousands of parochial school graduates every year? Sure, you can have their 100% cooperation, get anything you need done like the early warning radar system, not very useful for Turkey (too close giving little time to take action), supress opponents among other things, but like in Iran and Afghanistan, things will get ugly eventually.

    • anneinpt says:

      A.S,, thank you for your very informative comment and welcome to my blog. The history of Turkey that you have provided is extremely interesting and sheds a lot of light onto what is going on today.

      I blame these outside powers that supported the fundamentalists in power now, with naive democratic country ideas.

      I agree with this point especially. The liberal west seems to think that everyone is in favour of democracy, but in reality fundamentalist dictators are completely opposed to it. They just make the right “noises” in order to get the assistance they need from the West, but they don’t reciprocate with help when it’s needed,like Iran and Afghanistan, as you said.

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