Claims by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), that Turkey has not engaged in drilling activities in the East Mediterranean were mocked and criticized by both state officials and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu yesterday sarcastically said that Kılıçdaroğlu must think that the Fatih, Yavuz and Barbaros ships, which protect the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the East Mediterranean, belong to the Greek side.
Releasing a Twitter message with footage showing Kılıçdaroğlu's comments about the East Mediterranean, Çavuşoğlu added, "We are ready to inform Mr. Chairman, who did not get sufficient information, about our national issue, Cyprus."
At his party's provincial chair meeting in the Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir on Saturday, Kılıçdaroğlu said that the East Mediterranean has rich natural resources and added, "The United States, the Greek Cypriot administration, Egypt, Qatar, all of them are there. Only Turkey is not there."
AK Party spokesperson Ömer Çelik yesterday criticized Kılıçdaroğlu and said, "What the whole world has heard, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu did not hear again. Whether Kılıçdaroğlu knows or not, our government has the will and determination to protect the rights and interests of the TRNC until the end and will continue to take necessary steps." Noting that the CHP leader's ignorance about such a national issue is concerning for the political environment, Çelik said that all political parties must support the country's rights and interests in foreign affairs regardless of their different ideologies. Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez yesterday released a Twitter message on the drilling activities of three Turkish ships in the region.
He added: "The East Mediterranean is all of Turkey's issue. We were here yesterday, we are here today and we will be here tomorrow."
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey used its guarantor rights to intervene on the island after a far-right Greek Cypriot military coup sponsored by the military junta then in power in Athens sought to unite the island with Greece. The coup followed decade long inter-ethnic violence and terrorism targeting Turkish Cypriots, who were forced to live in enclaves when Greek Cypriots unilaterally changed the constitution in 1963 and stripped the island's Turks of their political rights.
The TRNC, established in 1983 on the northern one-third of the island, is only recognized by Turkey and faces a longstanding embargo in commerce, transportation and culture. Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot administration enjoys recognition by the international community as the Republic of Cyprus, established in 1960, which is a member of the EU.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. – ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
Turkey 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. The unilaterally declared exclusive economic zone of the Greek Cypriot administration violates part of Turkey's shelf, particularly Blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Since spring this year, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels – the Fatih and most recently the Yavuz – to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
Athens and the Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships' crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.