Ankara raises ten­sions

Se­cu­rity coun­cil decision to keep ves­sel off Cyprus trig­gers fears of more moves

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

A decision by Turkey’s top se­cu­rity body to main­tain its pres­ence off the south­ern coast of Cyprus, where Cypriot au­thor­i­ties al­ready have a li­cense to drill for oil and gas, has height­ened fears of ten­sions cli­max­ing in the re­gion if the Turk­ish seis­mic survey ves­sel Bar­baros moves into other ar­eas.

The decision, which was is­sued by Turkey’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil early yes­ter­day, de­clared that Turkey would con­tinue to “pro­tect the rights and in­ter­ests” of the break­away state in north­ern Cyprus, which is only rec­og­nized by Ankara, in the east­ern Mediter­ranean. The state­ment added that Ankara would con­tinue to closely follow the drilling ac­tiv­i­ties of Cyprus.

Diplo­matic sources in­ter­preted the state­ment as a re­buke to the tri­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on the is­sue of drilling rights and ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zones (EEZ) in the re­gion. Ear­lier this week, the three coun­tries con­demned Ankara for its trans­gres­sions off Cyprus, say­ing in a joint state­ment that they “de­plored the re­cent il­le­gal ac­tions per­pe­trated within Cyprus’s EEZ, as well as the unau­tho­rized seis­mic op­er­a­tions be­ing con­ducted therein.”

Mean­while sources in­di­cated that Ankara has re­jected a pro­posal by the United Na­tions for the Bar­baros to with­draw from the vicin­ity of Cyprus’s EEZ for three months to al­low frozen UN-buffered ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at re­uni­fy­ing the di­vided is­land to re­sume. The pro­posal is said to have been re­layed to Turk­ish of­fi­cials by UN me­di­a­tor Espen Barth Eide. The Nor­we­gian diplo­mat is said to be work­ing on a for­mula fore­see­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of rev­enue from en­ergy de­posits off Cyprus be­tween Nicosia and the Turk­ish-oc­cu­pied north.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, the pres­i­dent of the US Se­nate’s for­eign re­la­tions com­mit­tee, Robert Me­nen­dez, has writ­ten to US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, ex­press­ing con­cern over Turkey’s vi­o­la­tion of Cyprus’s EEZ and ask­ing the lat­ter to urge Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to with­draw the Bar­baros. The let­ter comes be­fore Bi­den’s sched­uled visit to Turkey on Novem­ber 20. Cyprus Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades spoke by tele­phone with Bi­den late yes­ter­day, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment spokesman Ni­cos Christodoulides, who said Bi­den showed “full un­der­stand­ing” re­gard­ing Cyprus’s right to ex­er­cise its sov­er­eign rights within its EEZ.

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