The (Greek) Cypriot government has awarded exploration concessions off the southwest coast, in sector 5 of the Ezz. The Turks have responded by saying that no nation, company or ship will be allowed to carry out "unauthorised research". A new confrontation while Pope Francis is preaching peace and fraternity on the island.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Turkish government has attacked Nicosia, accusing it of violating its own continental shelf by granting an unlicensed licence to Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum to explore the sea for oil and natural gas deposits.
In a statement, Ankara's foreign ministry said the country "will never allow any foreign nation, company or ship to carry out unauthorised hydrocarbon exploration in its jurisdiction".
The latest confrontation comes amin Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Cyprus and Greece to relaunch the values of tolerance, dialogue, the welcoming of migrants and peace in the Middle East, a new front of tension is opening up between the Turkish leadership and Nicosia.
Ankara accuses the Cypriots of violating maritime borders and reiterates that it is not willing to tolerate illegal drilling and exploration in an area it considers an "exclusive economic zone" in the eastern Mediterranean.
The region has become a focal sector in the race for gas and hydrocarbon exploitation for Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, joined by Turkey in a head-on clash between centuries-old historical rivals. Moreover, the economic factor is compounded by the confessional factor, with divisions between Christians in the Greek part, especially Orthodox, and Muslims in the Turkish sector, where there have been signs of "Islamisation" among the inhabitants.
Brussels has repeatedly called on the Ankara government to defuse the tension, reaffirming its intention to defend the interests of the Member States (Cyprus and Greece). The Turkish reply was prompt, as it does not intend to retreat one step in the vindication of its economic, political and commercial interests, as well as the protection of interests in the Turkish-Cypriot area of the divided island.
Among the unresolved knots is the lack of agreement on the limits of the respective continental shelves between Greece and Turkey; the discourse regarding Nicosia is different, which for Ankara has no right to any territorial or maritime claim since it does not recognise the authority of government. Heedless of the warning from President Erdogan's cronies, the (Greek) Cypriot Council of Ministers has ordered the granting of a licence to Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum for sector 5 of what it considers its exclusive economic zone (Ezz) in the south/south-west of the island.