Nicosia protests Turkey's continued illegal behaviour to the UN

This is the third consecutive illegal drilling since May 2019, when another Turkish drilling vessel, namely the Fatih

Cyprus has protested to the UN Turkey`s continued illegal behaviour against Cyprus in terms of hydrocarbon exploration and military activities, requesting the UN Secetary - General "to call upon the Government of Turkey to comply with international law, respect the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus and refrain from any actions that endanger international peace and security and are counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus."

In a letter dated November 13, 2019, the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN, Andreas Mavroyiannis, informed the UN Secretary- General that Turkey continues its illegal behaviour, escalating its provocative and unlawful actions against Cyprus, in terms of both hydrocarbon exploration and military activities.

In particular, he added, in early October 2019, Turkey, through the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Company, deployed its drilling vessel the Yavuz within the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, in offshore exploration block 7, which has been licensed by the Government of Cyprus to European oil and gas companies (Total and Eni). 

The drilling point lies just 44 nautical miles from the coast of Cyprus, within the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, which has already been delimited, in accordance with international law, between the relevant opposite coastal States, namely the Republic of Cyprus and the Arab Republic of Egypt, by means of the EEZ delimitation agreement of 2003. The said drilling operations are planned to continue until 10 January 2020, as set out in an unauthorized navigational warning issued by Turkey, Mavroyiannis noted.

He went on to say that this is the third consecutive illegal drilling since May 2019, when another Turkish drilling vessel, namely the Fatih, commenced its operations in the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, at a distance of about 36 nautical miles from its western coast. Mavroyianis recalled that the above-mentioned vessel, the Yavuz, which is now positioned in exploration block 7 of the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, had previously completed another such drilling within the territorial sea of Cyprus, approximately 10 nautical miles from the north-eastern coast of the island Karpas, infringing the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus` Permanent Representative Mavroyiannis said that according to international law, the establishment of installations and structures on the EEZ/continental shelf falls within the ambit of the coastal State’s exclusive rights and jurisdiction. Consequently, the deployment of both aforementioned drilling vessels in the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus is in breach of articles 56 (1) (b) (i), 60 and 80 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which form part of customary international law and thus are also binding on non -parties to the Convention, including Turkey, he added.

Moreover, the conduct of drilling operations in the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus constitutes a violation of the exclusive sovereign
rights of Cyprus over the natural resources of its EEZ
/continental shelf, in violation of articles 56 (1) (a), 77 and 81 of the Convention, which also form part of customary international law, Mavroyianni said.

He recalled that since July 2019, Turkey has also conducted three additional hydrocarbon exploratory seismic surveys within the EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, reiterating that these activities by Turkey are in violation of the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its
EEZ/continental shelf, in accordance with the pertinent rules of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and customary international law.

Mavroyiannis said that in addition to the extensive hydrocarbon exploration campaign pursued by Turkey around the whole island of Cyprus, it is deeply concerning that the military forces of Turkey have surrounded the island, either in escort of the exploration vessels or in conduct of military exercises.

In fact, since July 2019, the number of Turkish military exercises within the EEZ of Cyprus has increased dramatically, with 51 military exercises involving warships and aircraft reported at the end of October 2019, he noted.

In addition, he added, there is an alarming increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, both armed and unarmed, the competent authorities of Cyprus having reported 144 such flights since July 2019. Those flights constitute an infringement of international air traffic regulations (and, in some cases, violations of the national airspace of Cyprus) and place an additional security burden on the Nicosia flight information region, Mavroyiannis noted.

He stressed that Turkey’s overall militarization of the maritime zones of Cyprus constitutes not only a serious violation of applicable international law but also an abuse of the freedom of navigation, violates the principle of the peaceful uses of the seas, endangers the safety of navigation and poses an overall threat to international peace and security.

"Turkey’s illegal activities in the maritime zones of Cyprus not only run contrary to applicable international law, but, as exemplified by the ongoing drilling operation within a duly delimited maritime area between Cyprus and Egypt, constitute yet another attempt on behalf of Turkey to challenge one of the core attributes of the Republic of Cyprus as a sovereign and independent State and member of the United Nations, namely its capacity to conclude international agreements with its neighbours for the delimitation of their respective EEZs," Cyprus` Permanent Representative said.

He noted that by doing so, Turkey, in essence, is challenging the very foundations of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the rules and principles governing the world order.

It is thus ironic, Mavroyiannis went on, that Turkey claims that its actions in the maritime areas around Cyprus are “in accordance with international law”, as one of the very few States in the world that has neither signed nor acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the only State that, every single year, votes against the General Assembly resolution on the law of the sea.

He added that moreover Turkey refuses to enter into negotiations with Cyprus in order to delimit our maritime zones, as predicated by the rules of international law, despite my Government ’s invitation to that effect, which was welcomed by the European Union.

Having not accepted the jurisdiction of any international adjudication mechanism, including the International Court of Justice,
Turkey has, in effect, conveniently excluded itself from any international dispute settlement mechanism where its assertions can be put to the test, Mavroyiannis noted.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.