Greece’s foreign ministry on Monday condemned Turkey’s violation of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) after Turkish warships harassed an Italian-interest rig digging for hydrocarbon in the Eastern Aegean.
“We urge Turkey to refrain from further unlawful activities and comply with its commitments as they emanate from international law,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Last week, six Turkish warships prevented a rig belonging to Italian company ENI from drilling in Block 3 of Cyprus‘ EEZ. The captain of the Saipem 12000 is waiting for ENI to give the green light in order to move to the drilling point to continue the search for hydrocarbons.
The rig of the Italian company, which was harassed by the Turkish Navy, remains some 15 nautical miles away from its target, 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the southeastern coast of Cyprus.
‘Greek Cypriots testing Turkey’s patience’
Cyprus is testing Turkey’s patience in the Eastern Mediterranean, a retired Turkish naval officer has claimed, according to a Cyprus Μail report.
Former vice-admiral of the Turkish navy, Cem Gurdeniz, said in an interview to Turkish newspaper Milliyet on Sunday that the harassment of Saipem 12000 is a serious demonstration of the power of the Turkish fleet.
Gurdeniz said that Ankara will not budge on this matter.
“These moves of the Greek Cypriot side and Greece are testing the patience and the possible reaction of Turkey,” he said, claiming that the two countries have seized an opportunity now that Turkey’s attention is focused on its operations in Syria.
Gurdeniz warned that whenever Greece and Cyprus acted with opportunism, they suffered significant territorial losses and gave as an example the “Cyprus peace operation” — meaning the 1974 Turkish army invasion of the island and present occupation of its northern sector.
On Sunday, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement accusing Greek Cypriots of unilateral hydrocarbon-related activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and said that Turkey would continue to protect its own interests.
The statement further said that the exploitation of natural resources is also the right of the Turkish Cypriot people, “who are the co-owners of the island”.
At the same time, the statement warns that if there are any consequences, it would be the sole responsibility of the Greek Cypriot side
Greece praises Nicosia for its ‘sober stance’
The Greek foreign ministry praised the Cypriot government for its “cool-headed and sober stance” over Turkey’s provocations. In a statement, it said had Cyprus confirmed its role as a pillar of stability in the wider region.
Cyprus’ president, Nicos Anastasiades, said on Sunday that Nicosia is taking all necessary diplomatic steps to resolve the issue peacefully and to avoid escalation.
According to the Cyprus Mail, Anastasiades said the government is keeping its calm to avoid any crisis, while it is taking diplomatic steps so that the “Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights can be respected”.