Fear of incident off coast of Cyprus
Nicosia dismisses fears that Ankara will stage trouble during gas extraction
Cyprus yesterday dismissed concerns emanating from the Geek Defense Ministry that Turkey will provoke a dangerous escalation in tension when France’s Total company begins extracting natural gas in the island’s territorial waters this coming June.
According to a leak to journalists by senior Defense Ministry sources, Athens is increasingly concerned that there could be “military activity of Turkish forces when extraction begins.” But when asked about these concerns, Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said Nicosia is not considering such a scenario. He also said that he had talked about the issue with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and was reassured that Athens is not working on this assumption. However, critics and opposition party leaders were quick to state that Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was behind the leaks. “The ‘prediction’ by Kammenos of an incident with Turkey shows that the distance between being colorful and being extreme right wing is very slim indeed,” said Stavros Theodorakis, the leader of the centrist Potami party, which also issued a statement saying that its concerns stem not from what Kammenos leaks to journalists, but rather from what he says and what instructions such an “irresponsible man” gives to the army and Greek officers.
As tensions run high due to Turkey’s standoffish behavior in recent months, many critics across the board have openly questioned whether Kammenos, the leader of the populist ANEL party, has the temperment to deal with the situation, given that the government is aiming for a low-key approach.