Mounting concerns come as the island gears up for a “hot” week ahead, with the anniversaries of the 1974 Greek-inspired coup today and of Turkey's July 20 military intervention on Thursday.
As Greek Cypriots pressed ahead with controversial hydrocarbons explorations, two Turkish warships and a submarine were heading for the region, Turkey's military confirmed.
Another frigate, TCG Gökçeada, was also dispatched to monitor a drilling vessel off the south coast of Cyprus, as Ankara warned she would not turn a blind eye.
And it was revealed that Turkey was to begin its own “tit-for-tat” drilling for natural resources in waters off Güzelyurt.
The seismic surveying vessel, Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa, was last night north-west of the Koruçam peninsula, heading south, and Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak said it would begin explorations in what he described as “a special area”.
He said Turkey was “not a banana republic” and would “now play a much more active role in the Mediterranean”, warning international energy companies at a World Oil Congress in İstanbul that “it is not legal to do business in risky areas”.
The ultra deepwater drillship, West Capella, arrived on Wednesday morning at “Block 11”, some 180km south of the island in waters claimed by the Greek Cypriots as their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), under an exploration contract between the South French energy giants Total.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Ankara on Thursday Turkey could not ignore the Greek Cypriots' “unilateral activities” and “counter-measures” would be taken, adding: “The TRNC and Turkish Cypriot people also have rights to all kinds of reserves found around Cyprus.”
Sending in a drilling vessel showed the Greek side's "insincerity" about reunification talks that failed at Crans-Montana last Friday.
South Cyprus Defence Minister Christofores Fokaides said yesterday Turkey was acting “provocatively”, but added: “We [Greek Cypriots] should not get carried away either in creating or reproducing a climate of tension, whose only objective is to scupper or postpone our energy plans . . .
“There is no cause for concern or panic; the sooner we stop preoccupying ourselves with what is going on at the drillship on a daily basis, the better.”
Maja Kocijianic, of the European Commission, urged Turkey to “refrain” from friction that “could damage good neighbourly relations”.
Total's Arnaud Breuillac said the company had “no concerns” that its drilling could alienate Turkey, despite reports suggesting France had also sent two warships which were moored at Larnaca.
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