Cyprus defied threats from Turkey and sent the Greek-Cypriot research vessel Nautical Geo to conduct seismic surveys in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on Friday.
The vessel, under Maltese flag, has entered block 1 of the EEZ, south of Limassol. Nautical Geo belongs to a company of Italian interest and it carries on its research in the framework of the EastMed pipeline project, which is funded by the EU with the participation of Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Israel.
Turkey threatens Greece and Cyprus
On Thursday Turkey accused Greece and Cyprus of taking “steps that increase tensions,” threatening to intervene in any Nicosia action to drill in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In a statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry Tanju Bilgic spoke of an attempt to send research ships to the “Turkish continental shelf.”
Bilgic said that Ankara was responding to the challenges both on the field and at the table [of negotiations] and would not allow the rights it claims to have to be violated. He also said that Ankara “will continue to give answers” if Cyprus starts drilling.
Earlier, in an interview with TRT World, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that in the Mediterranean the “legal rights” and “sovereignty” of Ankara are non-negotiable”, and he threatened Cyprus with “hard power”.
“We use hard power when all other choices are exhausted and in order to drive things to dialogue and diplomacy. In the Eastern Mediterranean, we mobilized in order to demonstrate that our legal rights and our sovereignty are non-negotiable. At the same time, our President Erdogan issued a call for a conference of coastal states of the Mediterranean,” Cavusoglu said.
Greece rejects threats as “unacceptable” and “provocative”
“It is an oxymoron, to say the least, that a country which threatens to declare war on Greece if our country exercises its legal rights, which on an almost daily basis violates the sovereignty and sovereign rights [of Greece] and of the Cyprus Republic, and which utters unacceptable and provocative statements and threats, at the same time accuses us of destabilizing the Eastern Mediterranean,” a diplomatic source said Friday.
“Our country will continue to act with the exclusive purpose of defending its national interests and of promoting security and stability in the wider region, guided by respect for international law and, in particular, the International Law of the Sea,” the source said, rejecting Turkey’s claims as “baseless.”
Earlier this week Greece, Egypt and Cyprus have warned Turkey to stop taking unilateral actions in the eastern Mediterranean during a summit of their leaders in Athens.
The declaration of the 9th Trilateral Summit of Greece-Cyprus-Egypt sent a message to Turkey to refrain from provocations and unilateral actions that violate international law, such as the harassment of research vessels licensed by Greece or Cyprus, stressing that in an aggressive environment or under threat of violence, it cannot have a productive dialogue with results.
It also stresses the importance of “respect for the sovereignty and sovereign rights of all states in their maritime zones, in accordance with international law as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”