United Front Against Turkey - Beglitis
There is a new reality in the balance of power in the Mediterranean with a strong united front against Turkey comprised of the EU, the US, countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and Russia, said Greek Defence Minister Panos Beglitis commenting on Turkish threats towards Cyprus on the issue of offshore gas drilling operations.
"I hope that Turkey's political leadership will show the necessary common sense and realism to accept the reality shaped by international law in our region," he said after a meeting with his counterpart Demetris Eliades in Greece.
Any further threats from Turkey will isolate it even more, he said. The united front is a protective umbrella over Greece and Cyprus, which reaffirm their determination to defend both countrys' national interests, said Beglitis.
Greece is concerned that Turkey may take action against the island of Kastellorizo, which lies offshore and extends Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around it, limiting Turkey's EEZ in the area. Cyprus' concern is that Turkey will attack or harass Noble Energy's undersea gas exploration rig which has just arrived and is set to start drilling very soon.
Tensions continue in the region, with many analysts expecting Turkey to make good on its threats to send its navy to the area to try and prevent offshore gas exploration. In August, Turkey renewed its veiled threats towards Cyprus on the issue, with a statement from its foreign ministry saying that "the Greek Cypriot Administration does not represent in law or in fact the Turkish Cypriots and Cyprus as a whole."
Bilateral agreements between Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel are "unilateral actions" which could derail settlement talks, give rise to new conflicts and increase tensions in the region, according to the statement.
"These unlawful acts create tension in the region, compromise and prejudge the Turkish Cypriots’ existing and inherent equal rights over the natural resources of the island," said Turkey's foreign ministry.
But these threats and other reports of possible military action have not stopped Noble Energy which has an exploratory license for Block 12 in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone that experts say could contain 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. During a recent visit to Cyprus, a Noble Energy official said that natural gas could be delivered from Block 12 by 2014. The sector has been dubbed 'Aphrodite' and neighbors Israel's natural gas field Leviathan which is considered to be one of the Mediterranean's largest undersea gas reserves. The first well drilled on Leviathan alone contained 16 trillion cubic feet of gas.
In a speech earlier this week, President Christofias assured the Turkish-Cypriot community that it would benefit from undersea gas exploration, with suggestions coming from his administration that a percentage of potential proceeds would be set aside for them. The issue has also been discussed in UN-led reunification talks, and UN Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim said: "it should be understood that natural resources, if they are discovered, would be for the benefit of all Cypriots – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – under the framework of a federal united Cyprus."
Nonetheless, Christofias has rejected the Turkish-Cypriot position that hydrocarbon exploration should only begin after a solution to the Cyprus problem. In retaliation, Turkey and the 'TRNC' annouced their intention to sign a maritime border deal between north Cyprus and Turkey. And in more rhetoric, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay threatened to freeze relations with the EU if Cyprus is given the EU presidency in the second half of 2012 as planned.
Representatives from Turkey's energy ministry, foreign ministry and petroleum industry, including the General Directorate of Petroleum Affairs (PİGM), Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) are currently in Turkish-held north Cyprus to discuss undersea hydrocarbon exploration.
Political analysts in Cyprus say that any deal would be null-and-void since Turkey has occupied Cyprus since 1974 and the 'TRNC' is not recognised by any other country in the world except for Turkey.