US urges Turkey to halt drilling operations in waters off Cyprus

“This provocative step raises tensions in the region.  We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations”

The United States’ Department has said it remains “deeply concerned” by reports of Turkey’s drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus and has urged the Turkish authorities to halt them.
A State Department spokesperson was replying to a question by Hellas Journal.
“The United States remains deeply concerned by reports of Turkey’s drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus, including plans to dispatch the Yavuz south of Limassol,” he said. 

“This provocative step raises tensions in the region.  We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations,” he added.

He continued noting that the US policy on Cyprus’s EEZ is “longstanding and has not changed: the United States recognizes the right of the Republic of Cyprus to develop the resources in its exclusive economic zone.” 

“Only the Republic of Cyprus can assert maritime claims from the territory of Cyprus,” he said. 

“We encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” he continued. 

We urge “all states to resolve their maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

According to the State Department spokesperson “energy resource development in the Eastern Mediterranean should foster cooperation, increase dialogue between the two communities and among regional neighbors, and provide a foundation for durable energy security and economic prosperity.”

“We continue to support development of an equitable solution for sharing the benefits of Cyprus’ hydrocarbon resources between the two communities,” he concluded.

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Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Turkey has ignored numerous UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops and respect of the integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.

Turkey announced its intention to start drilling off Cyprus and send on 4 May 2019 the Turkish drill ship “Fatih”, which remains anchored 36 nautical miles west of Akamas peninsula, in an area that falls within the EEZ and continental shelf of the Republic of Cyprus. A second Turkish drill ship, “Yavuz”, arrived off the island’s north-eastern coast on 8 July 2019.
In response, EU Foreign Ministers endorsed on 15 July 2019 measures concerning Turkey’s illegal drilling in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus.

In accordance with the 20 June 2019 European Council conclusions, Foreign Ministers also invited the High Representative and the European Commission to continue working on options for targeted measures in light of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Last Monday, they decided to task the RELEX working group to expedite the sanctions` list compilation on Turkey`s illegal drilling.

Egypt, France, Cyprus and Greece strongly condemned continued Turkish actions in Cyprus’ EEZ and its territorial waters, in a joint communique issued by the four countries` Foreign Affairs Ministers on January 8 following meeting in Cairo, in which the Italian Foreign Affairs Minister also took part "in a consultative framework.”

In a statement issued last Sunday, regarding the illegal activities of Turkey within Cyprus’ EEZ,  the Presidency of the Republic  referred to Turkey’s new attempt to carry out a "new illegal drilling in the southern EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, inside exploration block 8, which was duly licensed to the European companies ENI and TOTAL".

"This new attempted drilling constitutes yet another flagrant violation of the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the relevant customary International Law, and completely disregards the international EEZ delimitation agreements already in force between Cyprus and Israel, and Cyprus and Egypt, respectively," the statement reads.

CNA - Apostolis Zoupaniotis