The drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea region will continue and legal and political measures were taken with the relevant ministries to prevent third-party interference that ignores Turkey's international sovereignty, Turkey's energy and natural resources minister said Tuesday.
The Greek Cypriot administration was reported on Monday to have issued international arrest warrants for 25 people, including for personnel of the Turkish drillship Fatih and officials from companies cooperating with the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO).
Ankara slammed the decision, warning there should be no doubt it will respond accordingly if Greek Cyprus dares to carry out the arrests.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez in a statement yesterday said Turkey will not allow any violations of the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Cypriot Turks. "We will continue our efforts to achieve regional peace by distributing the riches of Cyprus Island and the Mediterranean in a fair manner," Dönmez said. "Our extensive and long-term exploration and drilling activities in the region will resume as planned without making concessions to our legitimate rights on license areas."
"The drillship Yavuz will also begin its operations in the region when the preparations are complete," the minister said. Dönmez said the Greek Cypriot administration's attitude lacks legal ground. "Our activities in licensed and legal areas will continue without any delay despite the statements of the Greek Cypriots and the threats of so-called arrest warrants for our drilling ship Fatih's crew."
"Turkey never surrenders to any threats, and it never will," Dönmez added. Also speaking about the recent tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, TRNC President Mustafa Akıncı said the richness of the Eastern Mediterranean belongs to "all of us" and that it is being accepted.
"However, when it comes to exercising our rights, we are facing a Greek side that says 'This is our sovereign area,'" he said. "The Eastern Mediterranean can become a region of peace, a basin of peace. Everyone could benefit from it. We do not want tension in politics or conflict politics. We want peace and reconciliation, but we are also determined to protect our rights. If we see an understanding of cooperation, coproducing and sharing, we are ready to cooperate. But unfortunately, the opposite is happening. Apart from energy policies, there are efforts to keep the TRNC and Turkey away from the Eastern Mediterranean energy equation," Akıncı commented, stressing that these efforts are contrary to geography and that Turkish Cypriots and Turkey will continue to exist in the region's geography and history.
Commenting on the latest developments, Mesut Hakkı Caşın, head of the international relations department at İstinye University, said pressure is mounting for Turkey to give up on resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, noting that the decision of the Greek Cyprus administration to issue international arrest warrants was unauthorized. Indicating that the wealth of the island should be divided equally between the two states, Caşın said these resources are the common rights of both communities according to resolutions of the United Nations.
Emphasizing that the arrest warrants are unauthorized, legally disabled and have no provision, he noted that in case of a war, the responsibility will belong to the Greek Cypriot administration. "The ship in the Mediterranean belongs to Turkey as a sovereign state. The activities of the research vessel in international waters are in Turkey according to the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention and general international laws. If there are attempts to arrest individuals, Turkish naval forces will open fire. In this case, the Greek Cypriot administration would be responsible for the losses," Caşın said.
TURKEY'S RIGHTS IN EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched its offshore drilling operations on May 3 in an area located 75 kilometers off the western coast of the Cyprus island. The area falls entirely within the Turkish continental shelf registered with the U.N. and in permit licenses that the Turkish government in previous years granted to Turkish Petroleum, the country's national oil company. Turkey's first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa, bought from Norway in 2013, has been carrying out exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017. Turkey wants to see energy as an incentive for political resolution on the island and peace in the wider Mediterranean basin, rather than a catalyst for further tension. It has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. The island has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the collapse of a 2017 initiative in Switzerland held under the auspices of the guarantor countries.