Turkish Research Vessel Set to Pursue Exploration Activities Offshore Cyprus
A Turkish government’s Navigational Telex announced on October 3 of 2014 its plan to conduct, between October 20th and December 20th, seismic surveys in Cypriot waters within blocks licensed by the Government of Cyprus to ENI-KOGAS. The announcement led to the disruption by President Anastasiades of UN-led talks aimed at achieving a settlement for the divided island. Turkish Cypriots accuse the Greek Cypriots of conducting unilateral drilling that will only benefit the Greek side of the island. The Turkish intervention in Cypriot waters triggered the condemnation of the international community, the EU, the US and the UN. In fact, the United Nations recognizes the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over the entire island which includes its land and waters. The Republic of Cyprus has therefore exclusive and sovereign rights to exploit its resources. In line with the provisions of article 12 UNCLOS, the Republic of Cyprus signed delimitation Agreements with Egypt (2003), Lebanon (2007) and Israel (2010) on the basis of the median-line principle.
Despite the presence of Turkish warships in Cypriot waters, the ENI-KOGAS consortium pursued its planned drilling activities within Block 9 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. But the renewed friction between Turkey and Cyprus shows no signs of fading. The determination of the Turkish Cypriots to move the offshore gas issue into the settlement talks has led to the renewal of the NAVTEX as a warning to the Government of Cyprus that no further unilateral drilling must be undertaken without a solution involving the Turkish Cypriots. In a press statement dated 6 January 2015, the Turkish Cypriots announced that the Barbaros vessel will continue its activities in the region inviting the Government of Cyprus to resume peace talks for the purpose of achieving a sustainable solution that would benefit all Cypriots, Greeks and Turkish, and reunify the island.
The issue at hand is difficult to understand by the international community. The Republic of Cyprus has exclusive rights to explore its waters, and all revenues resulting from the discovery of hydrocarbon would benefit all Cypriots, including those residing in the northern part of the island, as repeatedly confirmed by the Greek Cypriots. The Turkish intervention in Cypriots’ water constitutes a severe violation of a sovereign right. The climate of distrust and hostility surrounding the peace talks will no doubt impede the prospects of any positive change that would allow the reunification of Cyprus, the lifting of a struggling economy, and the optimization of energy projects. The geopolitically complicated region of the Eastern Mediterranean can only strive if effective collaboration among all parties is achieved. Hopes that the gas factor will achieve what forty years of division were unable to are not so high.
Karen Ayat is an analyst and Associate Partner at Natural Gas Europe focused on energy geopolitics. She holds an LLM in Commercial Law from City University London and a Bachelor of Laws from Université Saint Joseph in Beirut. Email Karen firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her on Twitter: @karenayat