Wednesday

16th Jun 2021

Cyprus-Turkey gas dispute escalates

  • Map of Mediterranean Sea by Ottoman-era cartographer, Piri Reis, after whom the Turkish gas ship was named (Photo: Flavius Belisarius)

Turkish vessel the Piri Reis has set sail to drill for gas in waters claimed by EU member Cyprus amid talk of a potential new military confrontation after 35 years of peace.

Turkish TV showed the ship leaving port of Urle on Friday (23 September) to look for gas reserves in an offshore field beside the largely unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The move comes after a harsh exchange of words between the two sides at the UN in New York on Thursday.

Referring to related Turkish naval exercises in the area, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christophias told the UN assembly that Turkey's actions are "provocative and a real danger for further complications in the region ... I wish, from this esteemed podium, to condemn this illegal act which constitutes a provocation."

Referring to Greek Cypriot oil exploration in TRNC-disputed waters, which began last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We expect all the concerned parties to work actively to make sure the Greek Cypriot administration halts these activities, which can lead to tensions not only on the island but in the entire region ... Otherwise, we will do what is necessary."

EU institutions are monitoring the situation but declined to comment on Friday, after earlier in the week taking Cyprus' side and telling Turkey to back off.

Turkey's action is highly unusual for an EU candidate country and indicates the level of bad will created by the fact EU-Turkey accession talks ground to a halt 18 months ago, in part due to a Cypriot veto.

Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Aric also talked tough with press in Brussels on Thursday.

"Since we are acting within [maritime] law, we can accompany the exploration with our navy and our air force. We don't have the idea of fighting. We are just defending our rights," he said.

Noting that Cyprus and its main EU ally Greece have been weakened by the financial crisis, Aric said it would be "unethical" to take advantage of the situation.

But he could not resist a moment of schadenfreude: "We remember a few months ago, after the explosion in the arms depot, the Greek Cypriots needed electricity and were in darkness ... In the end they took electricity [from the TRNC]. But they have not paid for it yet because they don't know to whom to send the invoice. It's both comical and it's food for thought about the situation."

Turkey's decision to confront Cyprus and the EU comes at the same time as its diplomatic row with Israel over Palestine and its bombing campaign against Kurdish separatists in what amounts to a show of strength in the region.

Asked if Turkey's economic growth is a factor in its new foreign policy, Aric said: "It is certain that our political power has increased ... We are not a country that will say Yes to any demand."

Cyprus to get 'no strings attached' Russian bail-out

Eurozone member Cyprus is set to join Greece, Ireland and Portugal by seeking external aid to prop-up its finances. But unlike the EU and IMF bailout packages, its loan is to come from Russia with "no strings attached".

Opinion

A strategy for exploiting European shale gas resources

The EU has an opportunity to take a significant step in solving its energy problem and reaffirm its status as a major player in geopolitics. All it has to do, is embrace shale gas as part of the solution to its energy problem, advocates Dutch conservative MEP Derk Jan Eppink.

EU commission to confront Turkey on free press

The European Commission in its 2011 enlargement report will tell Turkey to stop attacking investigative journalists and mark "limited progress" on pro-EU reforms in many Western Balkan countries.

EU leaders tell Turkey to 'respect' Cyprus

EU leaders are planning to tell Turkey to "fully respect" Cyprus when it takes over the rotating presidency next year after Turkey threatened to boycott meetings.

News in Brief

  1. China calls Nato statement 'slander'
  2. Israel bombs Gaza after Hamas responds to far-right march
  3. Kosovo and Serbia resume EU-brokered talks
  4. IKEA fined €1m for spying on French employees
  5. Markets snap up €20bn of new EU recovery bonds
  6. German court to test European Defence Fund legality
  7. Climate crisis may hit Europe's coffee and chocolate imports
  8. EU top court affirms national data watchdogs' power

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU and US make peace on trade before Russia summit
  2. Hungary passes anti-LGBTIQ bill ahead of 2022 election
  3. Prisoners, homeless, migrants, 'overlooked' in EU vaccine race
  4. EU must treat homeless as rights-holders, not criminals
  5. China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato
  6. German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains
  7. EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues
  8. MEPs urged to end gas-funding, fix cross-border projects rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us