Gas in the Mediterranean : Erdogan is flexing its muscles

The huge gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean have not finished stoking the tensions between the great powers. A few months after the giant us oil company

Gas in the Mediterranean : Erdogan is flexing its muscles

The huge gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean have not finished stoking the tensions between the great powers. A few months after the giant us oil company ExxonMobil has announced it had found "one of the largest natural gas deposit discovered worldwide in the past two years", in cypriot waters, the tensions between Turkey, the european Union and the United States have again reached a critical threshold in recent days. In game: the exploitation of these huge deposits, and the economic benefits that result.

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in Early may, Turkey has opened the hostilities by announcing in a message NAVTEX (the international service of messages maritime) his intention to send a vessel in the economic zone claimed by the Republic of Cyprus, in order to conduct drilling operations for oil and gas. Called "Fatith" ("the conqueror" in Turkish), the boat must be backed up by other buildings and is part of the offensive strategy of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: for the former mayor of Istanbul, the proceeds from the exploitation of these hydrocarbon resources must be shared with the Turkish Cypriots, who live in the northern part of the island is under the protection of Ankara, as well as by the Turks. What Nicosia contends that a solution to the "cyprus problem" must first be found before the question of partition is addressed.

The arrival of a Turkish ship in EEZ of cyprus has been immediately denounced by the authorities of the island: "it is clearly a violation of international law", has tempêté president Nicos Anastasiades, who went so far as to call the event "second invasion" in turkey, after the intervention of troops of Ankara on the island in 1974, which led to the partition of Cyprus. "This provocation by Turkey is in flagrant violation of the sovereign rights" of cyprus, has hammered its side, the ministry of foreign Affairs of the island.

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For his part, his Turkish counterpart was posed as the defender of the citizens of the "Turkish Republic of northern Cyprus", nation that is not recognized by the international community and located in the northern part of the island: "the legitimate rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots on the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean are not subject to discussion", has taken the Turkish president. Declarations warriors involved in a sensitive context for the head of State, who was embroiled in a political crisis since the municipal elections, and while the country entered into recession for the first time since 2009 in march.

Washington and Brussels put the Turkey in custody

This sudden rise in tensions resulted in a rapid reaction on the part of american and european authorities, who also have interests there: a member of the european Union, Cyprus has signed agreements with oil companies from several nations, including the French Total, the Italian ENI and american ExxonMobil in the exploitation of its oil and gas resources. "We urge Turkey to show restraint, to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and to refrain from any illegal action that the european Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus", said the head of the diplomacy of the Union, Federica Mogherini, in a statement. A posture of firmness followed across the Atlantic: "the United States is deeply concerned by the intentions" of Turkish, has written to the u.s. State department, denouncing a "highly provocative", which "could lead to tensions in the region". Washington would ask Ankara to "stop the operations" more quickly.

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Barely lost: the Turkey has swept these calls in a quiet flip of the hand, between an end of inadmissibility. Denying claims in the u.s. "unrealistic", Ankara defends its rights on the continental shelf, and reminds us not to be concerned by the agreements of maritime delimitation between the government of cyprus and other mediterranean countries. "The attempts of third parties to substitute for the international tribunals for the delimitation of the maritime borders are unacceptable," therefore, the ministry of foreign Affairs of turkey.

Escalating tensions

And, after several days of climbing, the situation does not seem close to self-soothe: "The EU should consider the use of restrictive measures against persons involved in illegal actions committed by Turkey in the exclusive economic zone of cyprus, said Nicosia, when the ministry of Defence of the Republic of Cyprus has promised that "measures" would be taken on "various fronts to put an end to the flagrant violation of Turkey". "We don't stop here", warned the minister, Savvas Angelides. For its part, France "reaffirms its unswerving commitment to the respect of the international law of the sea", to the "sovereignty of Cyprus and called on Ankara to "refrain from engaging in an act of provocation [...] which can only increase tensions in a region that needs stability".

In front, the spokesperson of the presidential party, Turkish PARTY, Omer Celik, has warned bluntly to the cypriot authorities, advising them to "remember 1974 and the keep in memory". A reference to thinly veiled to the Turkish military intervention on the island, which led ultimately to the partition of the country for more than forty years. The minister of Finance in Turkish, and Berat Albayrak, said a second drill ship should be sent "in the coming days" on-site, despite the already tense situation.

on Monday, the minister of Defence, Turkish, Hulusi Akar, has promised that the country would defend its rights in the Mediterranean. Ankara has also bandaged the muscles, by launching the "biggest year" of her navy, to which 131 ships, and 57 aircraft and 33 helicopters must participate in the Aegean, Black and Mediterranean sea. During this time, the cypriot minister of foreign Affairs, Nikos Christodoulides, met with his european counterparts in Brussels to try to define a common response to the current situation.

Updated Date: 15 May 2019, 00:00

Kathleen Lees


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