Ten­sion over Cyprus gas

Turk­ish ships to con­duct ex­er­cises off is­land coast as drilling set to be­gin

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Amid con­cerns of ten­sion fol­low­ing last week’s col­lapse of Cyprus peace talks, Turk­ish war­ships were ex­pected off the is­land’s coast this morn­ing ahead of the sched­uled drilling op­er­a­tions by the French-Ital­ian en­ergy con­sor­tium of To­tal and Eni.

Turk­ish ships were ex­pected to start mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with live am­mu­ni­tion at 5 a.m. in blocks 5, 6 and 7 in Cyprus’s ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ) after hav­ing re­served the ar­eas with a nav­i­ga­tional telex (nav­tex). The con­sor­tium’s ship West Capella ar­rived last night to com­mence drilling for nat­u­ral gas in the com­ing days in block 11.

Speak­ing to Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day about last week’s col­lapse in talks to re­unify the is­land, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras said that Greece’s mes­sage to Turkey must re­main con­sis­tent es­pe­cially “dur­ing these dif­fi­cult times” and that Athens re­mains squarely be­hind the self-ev­i­dent in­ter­na­tional rights of Cyprus to pro­ceed with ef­forts to ex­ploit its nat­u­ral re­sources. French gov­ern­ment sources told Kathimerini that Paris backs To­tal’s ac­tions, say­ing that they are tak­ing place in an area whose sovereignty is not dis­puted by Turkey.

Tsipras’s re­marks came after Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan warned en­ergy com­pa­nies not to pro­ceed with drilling, as they will risk “los­ing a friend.” Ankara has ob­jected to Cyprus’s ex­ploita­tion of its nat­u­ral re­sources say­ing they should be shared with the Turk­ish-oc­cu­pied north, rec­og­nized only by Turkey. Ankara has re­peat­edly warned that it will not ac­cept any “uni­lat­eral ac­tion” by the Greek Cypri­ots. But Tsipras said yes­ter­day that it was a given that Greece, the Euro­pean Union and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will back Cyprus in its right to drill for nat­u­ral gas within its EEZ.

For­eign Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, say­ing that Turk­ish provo­ca­tions in Cyprus are a “pos­si­bil­ity” but stressed that Turkey is not “in­vin­ci­ble.”

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