Ankara blocks gas drilling off Cyprus's coast

Turkish warships have been blocking gas exploration activities in Cypriot waters since Friday, after an Italian energy company confirmed the discovery of a massive gas field in the area. The rights of Turkish Cypriots to the resources must be defended, pro-government Turkish media assert. Greek Cypriot journalists feel left in the lurch by the EU.

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Daily Sabah (TR) / 15 February 2018

Infringement on the rights of Turkish Cypriots

These gas exploration activities are completely unacceptable to Turkey, the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah points out:

“Greek Cyprus divided the Eastern Mediterranean into 13 parcels, including those off the shores of Turkish Cyprus, and licensed the parcels for natural gas drilling. But neither Turkey nor Turkish Cyprus accepted this parcel system and issued necessary warnings since it breached international law. .... While making such manoeuvres, Greek Cyprus unfortunately abuses some EU-based drilling companies while the EU remains indifferent to the situation. ... Not only Greek Cypriots inhabit the island of Cyprus. Therefore, drilling activities that solely serve the interests of the Greek Cypriot population infringe on the rights of Turkish Cypriots.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) / 15 February 2018

No sign of help from others

Cyprus's politicians are gradually sinking into resignation, Cyprus Mail observes:

“The government and the political parties have not just toned down their rhetoric about the Turkish actions in the Cypriot EEZ, they have also stopped issuing announcements about the latest provocations. Perhaps it is because they have realised that Cyprus is in a very weak position and any words uttered now will sound hollow, given that they cannot be backed by actions. ... The diplomatic efforts being made are unlikely to yield any results. No country or organisation, with the exception of a mild announcement by the EU, has condemned Turkey's actions. The general message of the international community, including the UN, was 'solve the Cyprus problem' so that such incidents would be avoided.”

Phileleftheros (CY) / 14 February 2018

Cyprus suffers from Stockholm syndrome

Phileleftheros accuses Cyprus of happily playing the role of victim:

“What are the UN and the EU supposed to do when the victim suffers from a sort of Stockholm syndrome, accepts its maltreatment and actively seeks to play the dramatic role of the weaker party? When have we called on the EU to impose sanctions that it did not approve? When have we had recourse to a veto that the EU did not accept? When have we called for something in a vote in the UN Security Council that the majority rejected? Drowning in misery and self-pity, we're left at the mercy of an insatiable neighbour with expansive aspirations.”

Kathimerini (GR) / 13 February 2018

Use diplomacy to prevent escalation

Nicosia and Athens need to resolve the tensions with Ankara through diplomatic channels, Kathimerini warns:

“In order for the reaction of Athens and Nicosia to be effective within this volatile region, weakened Greece and small Cyprus must make the most of their European Union membership and the tripartite partnerships with Israel and Egypt, as well as their relationship with the US. ... The tension between Washington and Ankara provides opportunities but also carries dangers, such as America's diminished power to influence Turkey. The stage that is being set, primarily in Cyprus's EEZ, is an extremely dangerous one. What is needed, in order to avoid a fait accompli, is discreet planning and careful moves behind the scenes.”

La Repubblica (IT) / 14 February 2018

Europe wrong about Turkey

Why has Europe still not understood that its friendship with Turkey is over? asks Lucio Caracciolo, an expert in geopolitics, in La Repubblica:

“The reason lies in the false image we had of Turkey. For decades it encouraged us to see the country as an outpost of the West, as an Atlantic alliance partner which sooner or later had to be allowed into the EU. Yet since the mid-1990s, and then explicitly under Erdoğan, Ankara has been finding its way back to its imperial calling. ... Neo-Ottoman, pan-Turkish and pan-Islamic. For the Turkish president it is not Brussels that is the point of reference, the 'capital' of a European community that is in a state of gradual collapse. His role models are Mehmed the Conqueror [of Constantinople] or [Sultan] Suleiman the Magnificent.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) / 13 February 2018

Republic of Cyprus is powerless

Even though the EU called on Ankara to lift the blockade Cyprus Mail still feels it has left the country in the lurch:

“The painful truth is that the responsibility for defending the Cyprus Republic's sovereign rights and ensuring the security of the ENI drillship belongs exclusively to the Cyprus Republic and no other country will do this for us. But because we do not have the ability to do either Ankara will be calling the shots, even if this means showing complete disregard for international law. The fact that the Saipem 12000 has not moved from the position, at which it was halted by the Turkish warships five days ago, is an indication the Turks would want to dictate how the situation is resolved.”

Politis (CY) / 11 February 2018

Who is supporting Turkey?

Politis also doubts that the Republic of Cyprus will benefit from international support in this conflict:

“The Turks warn the Italians that for safety reasons their exploration platform can't be moved in the desired direction because a military exercise is taking place. This step is a flagrant violation of international law, but that's not the worst aspect. Because it's still not certain how far Turkey will take this provocation. ... Did Turkey take this step on its own? Is its behaviour being tolerated by other countries? And if Ankara is benefitting from such tolerance, what did it do to get it?”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) / 13 February 2018

Natural gas heightening tensions

Il Sole 24 Ore has its suspicions about why the conflict has flared again:

“Turkey's energy consumption is growing constantly. Up to now Ankara has had nothing to do with the natural gas extraction race. But other states located in the eastern Mediterranean area have: Israel, where the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields were discovered. Egypt, which thanks to the Zohr gas field no longer has to import natural gas. And now Cyprus, the island that Ankara has been trying to drag away from Greek influence all along. To this day Cyprus is divided, with northern Cyprus under Turkish control. The debate about territorial waters is just one aspect of the conflict, but the discovery of gas reserves has made this aspect the main focus once more.”

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